Vern Thomas, retied Seattle Assistant Chief and King County Sheriff passed away January 30, 2016 after a prolonged illness.
Vern was born in Port Angeles. After graduation from high school there, he joined the Navy. He served in the South Pacific during the closing months of World War II. He was discharged two years later and returned to Bremerton. He met his wife Yvonne and got married in 1947. Vern got a job at the University of Washington but the job did not appeal to him. So he applied to Seattle Police in 1950.
Vern was hired on February 26, 1951, the same day as Rod Jackson #1196. They both were assigned to West Central for two months before going to training. They were in the first class to attend the Academy in the new Public Safety Building (PSB) at 3rd and James. That building is now just an empty hole in the ground. The PSB had just replaced the old Flat Iron, now called The Yesler Building at Prefontaine and Yesler. Upon completing training, Vern and Rod were assigned as partners working first relief in cars 1, 2 and 11. These were the two-officer cars in the downtown core. Eighteen months later they were assigned Car 3 – Stewart Street north to Lower Queen Anne. They worked this district for four years moving to 2nd and 3rd Watch. In those days 2nd and 3rd Watch rotated every 90 days, so the officers would know their district both night and day. Only 1st Watch did not rotate.
In late 1955 Vern transferred to the Detective Bureau to work Pawn Shop. After a couple of years he moved to Homicide and Robbery. In the meantime, Rod stayed in patrol, working with Jerry Yates #1531 until a new unit was formed in 1961 called the Special Patrol Squad (later call the Tac Squad, ERT and today – SWAT) to prepare for the 1962 World’s Fair “Century 21”. In 1962 Rod transferred to H & R and teamed up with Vern again. They were together for two years.
In 1964 Vern transferred to Harbor for two years, but got bored so went back to the Detectives in 1966 to work Burglary. Two years later he was promoted to sergeant and was assigned to Wallingford. This was the period that the Department was expanding due to civil unrest throughout the country. So about 20 months later, Vern was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to Training. Again, in less than two years he was promoted to Captain and assigned to the Central Precinct. This was during the time of anti-war and student unrest that resulted in demonstrations and riots in the precinct. He did such a good job that COP George Tielsch promoted Vern to Major. This assignment lasted less than a year. Then a new administration arrived and Vern moved back to Captain. During the next five years he worked patrol, then Traffic.
In January 1979, COP Fitzsimons arrived and five months later he promoted Vern to Assistant Chief of Operations. He was the number two man on the Department for the next three years.
At the end of 1982, just shy of 32 years of service, Vern retired. But he was not done with law enforcement – he retired from the PD to be the temporary head of the King County Jail and Detention Services. Randy Revelle, a former Seattle City Council member , now the new King County Executive asked Vern to be DJAD Interim Director. They had developed a rapport over the years when Vern would testify before the Council. Four months later, Revelle appointed Vern the King County Sheriff. He was replaced at DJAD by Dean Olson #1918.
Vern was the Sheriff from April 1983 through December 1987. He formed the Green River Task Force that ultimately led to the arrest of serial killer Gary Ridgeway. After leaving the Sheriff’s Department, Vern worked as the Vice President of Security for the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle. This was a multi-venue event for athletes from around the world to compete in swimming, diving, boxing, basketball, baseball, etc. This job lasted over two years. Vern was again joined by his old partner Rod, who oversaw the athlete’s village at the U of W.
In 1990 Vern finally and fully retired to ride his motorcycles to visit old friends like John Dinse #1520 in Yakima. Vern was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Yvonne. He is survived by his daughter Janet Schofield and his son Rick.