Last year, Wendell Shirley joined the Bellevue Police Department (BPD) as the interim chief after Steve Mylett left in August. He served as interim for six months, until he was sworn in as chief on February 23. Today, he is the first person of color to head the Bellevue Police Department consisting of 186 commissioned officers, along with 47 non-commission personnel.
Shirley’s career in law enforcement began in 1993 at the Santa Monica Police Department. After 26 years, he hung up his uniform and retired. Only a year later, Shirley saw an opportunity to create change and returned to public service after nationwide protests over social justice and police reform.
According to AP News, Bellevue is Washington’s fifth-most populous city with about 150,000 residents and counting. Hear more about Shirley's plans to respond to growth and the elements of a safe downtown.
1. BDA: What inspired you to pursue a career in criminal justice?
Shirley: I have always wanted to help people and thought being a police officer was a great way to do that. I grew up in an environment where there wasn’t a lot of trust in law enforcement, and I wanted to help change that.
2. BDA: What elements go into creating a safe downtown?
Shirley: Everyone working together. When the community partners with the police, safety is the winner. I enjoy bridging the gap between the community and the police, building trust and creating a true partnership. Police cannot fight crime alone; we can’t arrest our way out of crime. We need to work together, and I have always tried to help people see that. It starts from the top. The chief sets the tone builds trust and treats people well so that they feel supported and valued.
3. BDA:What are the main themes you'll be addressing at this month's Downtown Talks?
Shirley: We need to collectively fight crime together. My philosophy is P.I.E – prevention, intervention and enforcement. It’s a partnership between the community and the police. I look forward to discussing it further on May 24.
4. BDA:Since entering your new role, what issues are you planning to tackle within the year?
Shirley: We are currently preparing for light rail and the increase in population. I want to ensure the department has all the resources it needs to continue to provide outstanding public safety services. This means an extensive look into who we're hiring, how we train our people and what they need to prepare for the growth. I also want to continue to fight the uptick in property crime that we’ve seen since the pandemic started.
5. BDA:What do you hope to achieve in your new role as police chief?
Shirley: I want to leave the department better than when I arrived. That means hiring the best people available, offering all the necessary training and making sure we are fully equipped and supported to continue a high level of service now and in the future.
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.