The city of Bellevue, Washington, welcomed Wendell Shirley as its new police chief on February 23. The seasoned law enforcement veteran plans to improve police–community relationships, deal with the uptick in crime in the city and more.
The California native said he always wanted to become a police officer after witnessing the dynamic of fear and distrust that existed between the people and the police in the Watts neighborhood where he grew up. He wanted to change that relationship for the better, so he pursued a career in law enforcement.
“I always felt like if I became a police officer, maybe I could do something to help people. You’d have the authority to do it, and you can really help people — victims of crimes — and maybe you could hold other people accountable. And I just thought it was a great platform to do some good work,” Shirley told Fox 13.
Shirley served with the Santa Monica Police Department for 26 years before retiring in 2019. However, he shared that the nationwide social justice and police reform protests in 2020 promoted him to return to the force.
“I know law enforcement is going through a challenging time. And some of our colleagues have certainly put us in that position. But I will tell you there are hundreds of police officers in this country that really do it for the right reasons because they care about people,” he said.
Shirley moved to Bellevue after being handpicked by city officials for the role of assistant chief. He was interim chief for six months before being sworn in at a full-time capacity.
The department’s former chief, Steve Mylett, left the department for a position in Ohio.
City manager Brad Miyake was instrumental in appointing Shirley as chief of the department.
“We were fortunate to have Chief Shirley join the Bellevue Police Department last year after a nationwide search for the assistant chief position,” Miyake said. “Over the past six months in the interim role, I believe he has demonstrated the leadership skills and dedication necessary to lead the department. It’s critical that we continue to keep our neighborhoods safe and build strong relationships with community groups and residents of all backgrounds.”
Shirley’s main goals are to reduce crime in the city while engaging with the community.
To address the increase in crime, Shirley described his plan — which he calls PIE — as having three components: prevention, intervention and enforcement.
“And if you notice, enforcement is the last letter. So we need more prevention, we need more intervention and there also needs to be enforcement/consequences. So it’s going to take an umbrella of services to help us get through this,” he said.