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Person Behind The Place: Wendell Shirley

August 10, 2021 - by Sandy Vo

Person Behind The Place:
Wendell Shirley

Interim Police Chief | Bellevue Police Department

Wendell Shirley started his law enforcement career in 1993, working for the Santa Monica Police Department for 26 years. After climbing the ranks and earning the title of captain, he hung his uniform up and retired in 2019. A year later, amid dozens of national news of police brutality and social justice, Shirley saw an opportunity to create change and came out of retirement.

“The issues going on in 2020 regarding social justice and police reform tugged at my heart,” Shirley said. “I loved police work, but I also understood some of the issues and concerns in communities, particularly communities of color were having as it related to police relationships with their community.”

Wanting to help bridge the gap, Shirley became assistant chief in March and now has been appointed as the new interim police chief. We talked with Shirley about the issues he plans to focus on and his favorite part about working downtown.

How were you selected to serve as Interim Police Chief of Bellevue?

I got interviewed by the former chief, Steve Mylett, and I hit it off with our philosophy of caring for people and loving police work. Chief Mylett left and the city manager asked me to serve as the interim chief. I am honored to do that.

What issues within the police department are you focusing on?

I want to make sure we get fully staffed. We’ve got a handful of vacancies and we certainly want to work hard to fill those and try and be diverse as an organization so that we reflect the community. The other thing we’re focusing on is the new police laws that came out in the state of Washington. That's very important to make sure that our officers understand the laws and know the laws so they can do better at their jobs in the streets. We are also reviewing the Office of Independent Review report on our Use of Force policies. OIR came up with 47 recommendations, many that we are already in alignment with, and we’re working through the list to make modifications where appropriate.

What issues within the City of Bellevue are you planning to focus on? 

I think the number one thing we're focusing on is continuing to build better relationships with members of the Bellevue community. We are making sure everyone feels included, feels important and feels that they can depend on their police department to protect them and respect them. We're also taking a look at our crime-fighting strategy, specifically at how we address crime and how we address quality of life issues in the community as a police department. It's always good to stop, take a look and see how we can do better addressing these issues.

Why do you working in downtown?

I've been here for six months. Downtown is absolutely beautiful. There are some incredible restaurants, stores, and foot traffic. I'm like everyone else - I like to eat good food, walk around and enjoy the atmosphere and other people!

Any favorite places to dine and shop in Downtown Bellevue?

I don’t do a lot of shopping, but my girlfriend and I have experienced a number of restaurants downtown that are all very good in their own way. I don't want to single out anyone because there's probably 50 more that we want to experience and I love supporting small businesses too! Give me about three months and I'll give you a top five.

Any hidden gems in Downtown Bellevue?

The last two weeks, the City of Bellevue sponsors neighborhood community walks, bringing city hall to the community. I've been on every single one of those walks in the last two weeks and let me say, the hidden gem is this - Every community has some unique character. The parks presented in those certain communities are beautiful, I love the trees and greenery here in Washington. There are so many other parks that I'd love to explore and enjoy when I'm not working.

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