Lakewood names new police chief

Mike Zaro has been named the Lakewood police chief. He has been assistant chief for seven years.
Mike Zaro has been named the Lakewood police chief. He has been assistant chief for seven years. Courtesy

Michael Zaro has been appointed as the new Lakewood police chief.

He has been interim chief since April, when former Chief Bret Farrar retired. City Manager John Caulfield made the appointment Tuesday.

Zaro, 45, will assume his official title Friday.

While assistant police chief, Zaro stepped in as acting chief on several occasions.

“Observing him the last two years that I’ve been at the city, I have been just overly impressed with how he conducts himself,” Caulfield said in an interview.

“He has a real effective type of leadership. I think he’s just the right person at the right time.”

After more than two decades in law enforcement, the promotion seems surreal, Zaro said Tuesday.

“Now that it’s here and that I’m actually the chief of police, it’s strange to say,” he said.

Caulfield opened the position to internal candidates first, a common practice for most open positions at the city, he said. Zaro was the only applicant.

Caulfield said that after reviewing Zaro’s application he didn’t believe it necessary to open the position to external candidates.

“The reason I didn’t open it externally was because I had an outstanding candidate,” Caulfield said. “But at the same time there needed to be a process.”

That included requiring Zaro to interview with four panels composed of city department heads, members from the Lakewood Police Independent Guild and the chair of the city’s Public Safety Advisory Committee.

Caulfield also talked with more than 100 people internally and in the community to gauge support for Zaro as chief, he said.

“The feedback was just overwhelmingly positive about Mike and his professionalism,” he said.

Zaro has been in law enforcement for 21 years, including 11 in Lakewood. Before the Police Department was formed he spent 10 years with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy and a detective.

He joined Lakewood as a detective in 2004. He worked on homicide and felony investigations, forensic investigations and was a public information officer for the department.

He was assistant chief for seven years in Lakewood and before that was a sergeant overseeing patrol, professional standards and training. He conducted background investigations for new hires and also supervised volunteers.

He also was a member of the Crime Response Unit, a multi-agency investigative unit in Pierce County.

As chief, Zaro will be paid $135,000. He will oversee 116 full-time employees, including 100 commissioned law enforcement officers. The department’s annual budget is $21 million.

Zaro said he doesn’t plan to change the direction of the department.

“Our officers and detectives do some outstanding work,” he said. “My goal is to get that message out there. To get the public more exposed to the work that we do.”

That includes balancing the department’s social media presence with face-to-face interactions with the public. Zaro plans to visit various civic clubs and community groups in the coming months to introduce himself as chief and continue those conversations.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467