Noreen Skagen #1990, retired Seattle Police Assistant Chief passed away on August 25, 2017 at the age of 87.
Noreen was born and raised in Seattle. She attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and Holy Angels Academy (for girls only) High School. Then she went to the University of Washington, earning a degree in journalism. Her goal was to become a foreign correspondent. But the opportunities were few in the mid-1950s. She landed a job editing a nurses’ association magazine. The pay was low. As a single parent with two sons, she needed a stable and better occupation. Some of her U of W sorority sisters were Seattle Policewomen. They encouraged Noreen to apply. She did, and was hired in August of 1959. She went to the same academy class in the PSB as the male police officers. She finished number one academically, and was one of the better shooters. After graduating, she was assigned to the Women’s Bureau.
The Women’s Bureau’s responsibilities were runaways, child abuse, and domestic disputes. It remained this way until the late 1960s when the Department was reorganized, the Police Women were redefined as Police Officers and assigned to the Detective Bureau.
During these years, she met Roy Skagen #2204. They began to date. On a picnic date, they took their revolvers to shoot at pop (or maybe beer) cans in a sand pit. Roy, being an ex-Marine and gun aficionado, went first, shooting at the cans placed at 15, 20 and 25 yards. He hit some and missed a couple. Then it was Noreen’s turn. She shot fast and hit all six cans. The last one she shot was in the air from previously being hit. Roy thought, “Wow, I’ve got to marry this woman, but I’m sure not ever going to piss her off.” She did marry Roy on May 9, 1969.
In 1974, Hester Hendrickson #3327, became one of the first female patrol officers. This is the same year Noreen was promoted to Detective Sergeant. Four years later, she was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned out North. A few months later, she was posted as the Director of Communications for a year before being promoted to Captain. Then she was assigned to the Metropolitan Section. Two years later, she was promoted to Major. Another two years passed and she was promoted to Assistant Chief by Pat Fitzsimons #4192. Over the next five years, she handled various politically sensitive assignments for the Department and the City. Her expertise was noted by then-US Senator Dan Evans. He nominated her to President Reagan to be the U.S. Marshal for the Pacific Northwest. Noreen was appointed in November 1988, to succeed another Seattle Assistant Chief, Gene Corr #792. She had to retire from the Department the same month, with 29 years and 3 months of service.
She served as the U.S. Marshal through the end of Reagan’s term, during the George Bush administration, and for a portion of Bill Clinton’s first term. Presidents do not usually keep another administration’s Marshals, but they did with Noreen. She served five full years.
Her next career was as an international consultant, expert witness, and mediator. She was also active in the Boy Scouts, Miss America Pageant, Child Haven, Kids Place, and many other service agencies. If this was not enough, Mayor Norm Rice appointed her to Seattle’s Public Safety Civil Service Commission.
When Roy and she moved to Mill Creek in 1991, she served on its Police Advisory Board for several years. Seeing her as a consummate professional, Mill Creek hired her as its Chief of Police in 2000. This was her last policing assignment. She led her troops with kindness. If a stubborn cop needing convincing, she did it with praise and her famous dish of M&M Peanuts. If he was really recalcitrant, he got two handfuls and maybe a lecture if the sweets didn’t work. One of her subordinates lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. She advocated for him throughout his rehabilitation and encouraged his efforts to return to full duty. The City listened to her and did return him to duty.
In full retirement, she and Roy traveled all over, both nationally, and internationally for both business and pleasure. They even took a photo safari once.
She is survived by Roy, her spouse of 48 years; two sons, Clark (a former SPD Assistant Chief, and Scott (a KCSO Major/Burien’s Chief of Police); and five grandsons, Erik, Jacob, Paul, James, and Austin.