Issaquah’s new Police Chief Scott Behrbaum is very tall and authoritative in appearance. But he’s also a really nice guy who cares a great deal about the community he and his force protect.
A native of Washington, Behrbaum grew up in Enumclaw before attending the University of Washington. It was there that he received his bachelor’s degree in society and justice and where he also met his wife, Megan. Both were in the rowing program — she was a coxswain.
Behrbaum went on to receive a master’s degree in public administration. In 2010 he attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. There he studied leadership and enhanced investigation. One has to be nominated and selected to attend the academy.
He said when he got out of college he decided to use his degree to enter the field of law enforcement. He tested in Issaquah because his brother lived there at the time. He’s been with the Issaquah Police Department since 1995.
Now, at age 41, he was chosen from three internal candidates to replace former chief Paul Ayers, who retired.
“I really wanted to help people and serve my community,” Behrbaum said.
His background explains his need to help others. His dad was a coach and teacher, and his great-grandfather was with the sheriff’s department before serving as the chief of police in Enumclaw. He decided being a police officer was the best way to have an immediate impact in helping the community feel safe as well as helping people get through times of crisis.
Behrbaum is focused on the community, whether it be something as simple as helping someone with directions, to advising businesses how to stay safe.
“That adds to the quality of life in Issaquah,” he said.
He plans to continue with a collaborative approach within Issaquah on local issues. When asked about the lack of serious crime in Issaquah, that’s fine with him.
“That’s part of why our city is regarded as a great place to raise a family,” he said. “(But) we’re always preparing for that next incident and we want to be able to respond quickly.”
Like the rest of the nation, the police department is feeling the pressure of mental health issues, Behrbaum said. He would like to see people who need it, get help first, but if they break the law, they must be held accountable. He subscribes to the “see something, say something” philosophy, because, it could be a piece of the bigger puzzle.
Another program he supports is Map your Neighborhood. This is where neighbors are encouraged to get together to see who has what resources in the event of a disaster/crisis. Behrbaum said it’s also a great way to get to know your neighbors, and prevent crime, because you’ll recognize a stranger in your neighborhood.
Heroin use is a nationwide problem and Issaquah is not immune, said Behrbaum, who is looking at methods various faith groups, human services groups and the Drug Free Community Coalition are using to make sure efforts aren’t duplicated.
It’s getting close to legal recreational marijuana businesses opening in Issaquah, although the city is only allowed one retailer. Behrbaum’s main concern is public use and DUIs.
“We’ll have to wait and see, just like when liquor was allowed to be sold privately,” he said.
He is also concerned about marijuana infused products, i.e. edibles, being accessible to minors.
“We actively work with the liquor control board on liquor accessibility and will with marijuana, too,” he said.
Since his appointment, some shifting around had to be done within the force. Steve Cozart is still deputy chief, while Bob Porter is now a commander overseeing the jail and corrections staff. Stan Conrad is the other commander, taking control of operations. Two newly promoted patrol sergeants include Andrew Rohrbach and Todd Johnson.
Moving forward, Behrbaum plans to continue community outreach by increasing access to what’s going on within the community, encouraging people to keep track of serial numbers on their valuable property so that it’s easier to track if stolen and using more social media. The department has applied for a grant with the Department of Justice to employ a community resource officer, sort of like a school resource officer, but one who is neighborhood focused.
“I feel very fortunate working in this community,” Behrbaum said.