Ashland's newest member of the police force is a familiar face.

Corey Falls, who left his sergeant post in the spring of 2006 during former Chief Mike Bianca's tenure, has returned as a lieutenant. When he left two years ago, he didn't think he would be back, but a position managing half of the police department was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

"I've had more of an unorthodox route to this position than a typical police officer who stays at the same organization in their career and just promotes up through the ranks," Falls said. "I've always tried to make decisions that were best for my family at the time."

Falls took a step down in rank from sergeant to police deputy, the equivalent of a patrol officer, when he moved from Ashland to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department, but the decision had more to do with his own career and family than any problems with the department.

"I don't want to shy away from the fact that there were problems when Mike Bianca was here," he said. "Mike Bianca was not an issue. The reason why I left was a totality of things."

Bianca was asked to resign in April 2006, around the time Falls left the force, after a vote of no confidence by the Ashland Police Association the year before. Among the concerns were Bianca's handling of emergencies and a leadership system of rotating sergeants later deemed ineffective for fostering accountability.

Falls said his own departure was the right move for him and his family at the time. They still owned a house in Bothell, Wash., where Falls began his career in law enforcement, and moving to such a large agency gave him the opportunity to expand his experience base, working in both urban and rural environments with people from all social classes and ethnic groups, he said.

"You don't usually take a step down," he said. "However, it was such a large agency, and a county deputy works very independently."

Looking forward

At 34, Falls is a fairly young lieutenant, and as always, he said he chose to take the job because it would put him in position to keep learning and advancing. He will oversee the entire support side of the police department, including records, training, policies and procedures.

His position mirrors that of Deputy Chief Rich Walsh, who manages operations for the department. Walsh is eligible for retirement, and although he has not made a decision when that will be, his exit will likely mean the police force will be run by two lieutenants answering to the police chief.

"When (Falls) applied for this position, I was very happy to see that he decided to take another look at our organization and come back and help it move forward," Walsh said. "He possesses characteristics and qualities of a leader that are probably going to lead him into a chief's position someday."

Falls does aspire to be a chief one day, he said, and he has collected experiences to aid him in that goal. In his 10 years of law enforcement, he has worked as a patrol officer, detective and sergeant.

He holds a master's degree in organizational management and has served on a SWAT team and as a firearms instructor.

Now he is looking forward to his work with Ashland's community.

"My favorite thing about law enforcement, and I think it becomes more clear the longer I'm in it, is the impact you have on a community," he said. "Having an influence on how the city is going to be policed, right now in my career that seems really cool."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227.