Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo: ‘I can’t please everyone’
Minutes after it was announced Thursday evening that a troubled Bellevue cop had resigned from the force, Police Chief Linda Pillo spoke with KIRO Radio at length in a rare interview about the state of her department.
Andrew Hanke, a 13-year veteran of Bellevue PD who was at the center of several alcohol-fueled controversies, submitted his resignation amid an internal investigation into his conduct during an incident that occurred late last year.
“I feel sad about the entire situation,” Chief Pillo said in an interview over the phone late Thursday. “For Officer Hanke to take this leap and resign, he certainly is being accountable.”
Hanke was off-duty when he was pulled over on Interstate 90 near Issaquah by fellow Bellevue Police Officer Doug Brennan the night of November 20, 2013. While Brennan later wrote in a report that he believed Hanke was “hammered” and in no shape to drive, he allowed Hanke’s wife to pick him up, rather than make an arrest for driving under the influence.
Officer Brennan eventually reported the incident to his supervisors, which led to a criminal DUI charge against Hanke and internal investigations into the conduct of both officers that night.
Hanke has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case.
The incident is not the first time Hanke and the department have come under fire.
Hanke was among two officers who were demoted for drunken and disorderly behavior during a Sept. 16, 2012, Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.
A 580-page internal report detailing the incident revealed that Hanke and his supervisor, a then-Corporal Dion Robertson, attended the game with two females, consuming an unknown amount of alcohol at home, at a tailgate party, and inside the stadium.
According to the report, the officers admitted to drinking several Coors Light beers, shots of whiskey, and two batches of “Pink Panty Droppers,” each batch being a two-gallon jug filled with one-fifth of vodka, eight beers and lemonade.
As the group approached CenturyLink Field that day, witnesses recalled how they harassed a Seattle Police officer directing traffic who caught Hanke’s wife littering.
“Are you really going to make my wife pick that up?” Hanke asked the officer, according to witnesses. “I am a Bellevue police officer.”
Problems continued once the group went inside, where Hanke was accused of making racist comments and using vulgarities. The group was eventually escorted from the stadium by alcohol enforcement officers.
Hanke later told investigators during an internal review that he did not remember driving home from the stadium that day.
The incident led to Hanke’s removal from the bomb squad and a 30-day suspension, but Chief Pillo was criticized for not firing him.
“At the time I reviewed the investigation and I felt that that was the best decision, taking into (account) the service that he had provided the public for the past years and the circumstances,” she said.
Chief Pillo would not give a direct answer when asked whether she stands by her decision not to fire Hanke after the Seahawks ordeal.
“Certainly, Andrew Hanke made a very bad decision on November 20,” she said. “It’s very clear of what my expectations are, along with the public’s expectations. That, of course, is that officers are held to a higher standard.”
Chief Pillo said her officers are held to the department’s principles of respect, integrity, accountability and service. She tried to assure the public that her department does not have an issue with transparency when asked why repeated requests for interviews by KIRO Radio and other outlets have been denied.
“I can’t please everyone, let’s put it that way,” she said.
She added that her department has a public information officer (PIO) for a reason, and that she is not obligated to make herself available for every media request.
“I leave it up to my PIO,” she said, referring to Officer Carla Iafrate, who is tasked with fielding calls from the press. “We’re hiring a very qualified person and paying that person to interact with the media on a regular basis.”
Chief Pillo said she hopes her department can move forward from Hanke’s resignation and rebuild the public’s trust.