Patrol sergeant steps up to lead Island County detective team

Laura Price with the Island County Sheriff’s Office has been promoted to detective sergeant.

One of South Whidbey’s finest and best known officers has a new badge and a new uniform.

Laura Price, a 17-year law enforcement veteran, is the Island County Sheriff’s Office’s new detective sergeant. The position essentially quarterbacks the department’s five-man — and now one woman — team of detectives. They work to solve Whidbey’s most serious cases, everything from homicides and bank robberies to sex crimes and narcotics violations.

“There’s some big decisions that are made on a regular basis,” Lt. Evan Tingstad said. “It’s a big deal to even be considered.”

Tingstad was Price’s superior at the sheriff’s office’s south precinct in Freeland, where she served as patrol sergeant for the past two years. Known for being easygoing and friendly, she was liaison to the public and media, and was responsible for coordinating and providing leadership to precinct road deputies.

Leaving patrol was a tough decision. It’s satisfying work and she’ll miss the regular interaction with the community, she said. Price also knows from personal experience that being a detective can be soul-taxing work; she was a detective specializing in child abuse and sex crimes for five years before requesting a transfer to the road in Freeland. But when she was asked to come back, this time to lead the team, she couldn’t refuse.

There’s important work to be done, she said, and she’s a cop. It’s who she is.

“I’m here because I’m supposed to be here,” Price said.

Price takes over for Rick Felici, who left the detective sergeant’s position in 2015 to become the sheriff’s office’s chief criminal deputy. It’s a challenging job, he said of Price’s new post, one with a lot of hats. Along with supervising detectives, Price will head up special projects, continue to liaison with the public and media, and manage the sex-offender registry.

“Her rank is not necessarily commensurate with her responsibilities,” Felici said.

He also commended Price on her other roles in the community, which aren’t work related. They’re not only cool but are reflective of her character, he said.

Price is a former board president for Good Cheer and was at the helm when the organization bought and moved into its headquarters on Bayview road. She was also one of the founders of the Whidbey Island Farm Animal Assistance Program, a non-profit group for which she currently serves as board president, and was a Hometown Hero in the South Whidbey Record.

Aside from those roles and her recent position in Freeland, Price is well known on the South End. She began her career in law enforcement in 1999 when she became a reserve deputy for the sheriff’s office. She is a former Langley Police Department officer and has been a reserve officer for the city since 2003. That’s not changing with her promotion — she’s picking up a shift this weekend.

Price is already busy rolling up her sleeves and getting to work at her new job. She’s planning on reopening old cold cases, including the murder of Tamara Mattson who was found dead at Camano Island State Park in 2003, and lightening the workload of the team by personally handling smaller cases. She’s been working for months to find ways to transition the sheriff’s office to a paperless agency and hopes to streamline other internal processes.

The responsibilities that come with the job are great, but this is familiar territory for Price. And, holding to her easy-going personality, she said the hardest part is hanging up the easy green deputy uniform and transitioning back to being a plain-clothes cop.

“The toughest decision is trying to decide what to wear in the morning,” she said.