Fann takes command
As a young boy growing up in the Roxbury neighborhood, Mike Fann had the typical childhood adventures. But they don't compare to the adventures he's experienced during his 35 years with the Seattle Police Department.
And now that he's comfortably in charge of the department's Southwest Precinct, one gets the sense he has come full circle. With one difference.
He now answers to the title of "Captain."
Capt. Mike Fann is back on his home turf, eager to build on the "solid foundation" provided by departing Capt. Jim Pryor, also a West Seattle native, who is now commander of the West Precinct downtown.
"Captain Pryor got us up and going," Fann says. "Good things are happening. My job is to take it to the next level."
In 35 years he's worked at four of the five Seattle precincts. Five years were here in West Seattle, where he split his time working in police areas William 1 (Admiral) and William 3 (Fauntleroy) sectors. Two and a half of those five years were with the local gang unit.
He's walked the U-District beat (from 1974-79), ridden (as a sergeant in the motorcycle unit), taught (at the academy), and "reined" over the eight mounted (horse) and 10 canine units, where he grew accustomed to being referred to as "The Animal Lieutenant."
He spent time with the Special Investigations unit, which deals with a broad family of crimes, such as vice, auto theft and fraud. It is also home to the multi-agency Major Crimes Task Force, where Fann is proud of his work in strengthening laws against those caught driving with suspended licenses.
Fann notes the influence of former Seattle Police Lt. Emett Kelsie, whose work with gangs demonstrated the importance of building a solid community feeling, a lesson that Fann passed on during the two years (2002-2004) he headed up the department's training academy.
Though the Seattle Police Department no longer operates its own academy, the Street Skills program Fann initiated is still in use today. During four days of intense training, officers enhance their driving and shooting skills and focus on liabilities and "best practices," as well as cultural and diversity issues. Some citizens (and officers) felt that the latter (which, for example, had officers chatting informally with residents of homeless shelters) smacked of liberal "do-goodery."
Fann disagrees and feels that cultural awareness and sensitivity should be "woven into" the definition of street skills.
"We're a liberal city and (you can't) pretend you'll function in a traditional model of policing here," he says.
Fann's philosophy is that customer relations, constitutionality, legality, and ethics form the foundation of all police work. It's through these and other statements ("We're judged by how we treat the lowest of society...." "We need to play by the rules and treat folks fair..." "Do the right thing and stand by it."), that the influence of Fann's high-school years at a local seminary become apparent.
Fann is a fan of Chief Kerlikowske and has had a lot of opportunity to watch him in action, having served as administrative assistant to the chief from 2000-2002.
"He sees the bigger picture and understands competing issues (and recognizes) that the goal is to serve as many interests as you can," Fann says.
Competing issues and communities are an immediate concern for the new captain. Differences in degree separate the needs of those trying to build structure versus those trying to stabilize a structure that already exists.
"It's a balancing act," says Fann, who notes that in some areas people are "losing their lives and suffering life-altering events," as opposed to other areas where the problems are "quality-of-life" issues.
When asked how citizens can help build a relationship, Fann suggests, "Work with us. And give us credit for the things that do work."
He adds, "And remember, the police department works for you."
Megan Sheppard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org