The Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs (COMPAS) announces the departure of long time Executive Director Renee Maher.
COMPAS is the lobbying organization originally created to represent the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, the King County Police Officers’ Guild and Port of Seattle police officers. While Port of Seattle officers are no longer part of COMPAS, the Puget Sound Police Managers’ Association eventually joined as well. The organization only represents active, fully-commissioned law enforcement officers and focuses on statewide issues affecting officers’ pension and collective bargaining rights. Ms. Maher has been the only Executive Director since the position was created.
“I was hired in September 2009, one month before we lost Tim Brenton in the line of duty,” she said. “I will never forget those first few months on the job when we lost Tim, then four Lakewood officers, followed by Pierce County Deputy Kent Mundell in December and then Grant County Deputy John Bernard in early January 2010. It was beyond overwhelming especially being new to the organization.” Still, Maher said she embraced the opportunity to advocate on behalf of officers and their families.
“As the surviving spouse of a Federal Way officer shot and killed in the line of duty, I brought a unique perspective to the conversation. I’m also a licensed attorney in two states and a former prosecutor so I see the world from many different angles. Most police officers don’t want awards or accolades, they just want to do their jobs knowing they are serving their communities. But those officers – and their families – pay a heavy price for that service,” Maher commented. “One of my main objectives in this job was to remind people that officers are members of the community, they have spouses and children, and every year several of those officers will make the ultimate sacrifice in service to their community. We shouldn’t ever forget that.”
“Renee has been an incredible advocate not just for officers in Seattle and King County, but across the entire state,” remarked COMPAS President Mike Solan. “We are grateful for all of her hard work and we want her to know that she will always be a big part of the law enforcement family.”
When asked why she was leaving, Maher simply said, “It was time.” While she acknowledges that it will be difficult to leave COMPAS after so many years, Maher chooses to focus on the accomplishes of the organization. Since coming on board, COMPAS spearheaded the Jason McKissack Act in 2010 that provided medical insurance coverage for catastrophically disabled officers and firefighters and their families. Jason McKissack was a Seattle Police Officer who was viciously attacked while on duty in West Seattle. While assisting a person being attacked by a group, the mob turned on Officer McKissack and he was repeatedly kicked in the head. He never returned to duty. Officer Mckissack, no longer able to work in any capacity, then lost medical insurance for himself and his family through the Seattle Police Department.
“It was a disgustingly accurate statement to say that an officer or firefighter was better off dead than injured or disabled because line of duty death benefits would kick in and help their family in their time of need,” Maher pointed out. “When we passed the Jason McKissack Act, that was no longer true. Our officers and firefighters no longer needed to die in the line of duty to know their families and their futures would be secure.” Maher paused then continued, “Getting that bill passed helped others besides Jason McKissack. It also helped Seattle firefighter Mark Jones who was catastrophically disabled after falling 15 feet down a fire-station pole hole. There were so many others who had been injured and seemingly forgotten who now would have medical coverage. Helping those families was one of my proudest moments in all of my professional career.”
COMPAS also was instrumental in getting the Blue Alert passed in 2012 after the death of Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu. The Blue Alert, patterned after the Amber Alert, created a statewide alert system to speed the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or seriously injure local, state or federal law enforcement officers. COMPAS also worked to ensure that the LEOFF 2 pension system was fully funded and protected so that when officers retired, they knew the pension earned over their law enforcement career was going to be there for them and their families.
Maher also stressed that many of these victories were a group effort. “I’m extremely grateful for the strong relationships we have established over the years. The Washington State Council of Firefighters are incredible partners to have in the legislative arena. The same is true for the Law Enforcement Officer and Firefighter Plan 2 (LEOFF 2) Board. Executive Director Steve Nelsen and his staff are second to none. They will move mountains to help first responders and their families.” COMPAS has also participated in workgroups, rulemaking and on-going work sessions related to police reforms.
When asked if she could impart any lessons learned in the last 12 years, Maher had two responses. “I would like the people of Seattle and King County to know that we have some of the best trained, most diverse members of law enforcement right here in our backyard. These are hard working men and women willing to die to save you and your families. We really see an immense amount of appreciation and support when we lose an officer in the line of duty. But it shouldn’t take an officer to die for us to appreciate their service because then it’s too late. They’ll never read the hundreds of cards received by the family or see the people standing along the funeral procession route. We need officers to know that we support them while they are still here serving our communities.”
The second point Maher hoped to convey was addressed to the officers and deputy sheriffs she has had the honor to represent. “Don’t assume that one political party supports you and one does not. I’ve met incredible people on both sides of the political aisle who support our officers and their families. Former Speaker of the House Frank Chopp was one of the most genuine, compassionate, honest and patient people I’ve ever met in the political arena. He was always willing to listen to the concerns of law enforcement. The same was true with former Governor Christine Gregoire. It’s easy to see the world as “us v. them” but politics is never black or white. It’s always somewhere in the middle. The most important thing is to stay involved and be your own best advocate.”