Bellevue PD Chief Steve Mylett: I prayed that the truth would come out
Police Chief Steve Mylett learned a lesson while he was on leave for nearly three tense months, caught amid a storm of sexual abuse allegations against Bellevue police officers. He found that his journey from accusation to exoneration not only required his patience, his family struggled with him.
When Mylett first found out that he was facing serious accusations and being placed on administrative leave, he did not even know what crimes he was being accused of.
“When I said, ‘I don’t know what I’m being accused of,’ I didn’t, until Aug. 15, when I sat down for an interview with the Bothell Police Department,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.
On Aug. 15, two weeks after being put on leave, Chief Mylett finally learned the allegations against him. An Issaquah woman said that Mylett had met her online in a chat room for people with sexual fetishes, met with her in person at a house in Bothell, and raped her there.
Upon hearing that the accusation was rape, Mylett felt his entire life come to a halt. He thought of his wife of 28 years, and his four grown children, one of whom is in the Marines.
“When you see this life that you’ve helped create with your wife, just, all of a sudden, disappearing right before your eyes, when you didn’t do anything — I knew, at least I felt at the time, that I was going to have to do everything in my power to prove I didn’t do it, just to stay out of jail,” he said. “But then the damage to my reputation, to my name, my son holds my name as well, and it would follow him, my family name.”
Although he said he does not personally know her, Mylett was familiar with the person making the accusations. The woman, who Bothell investigators say has a history of mental health issues and making false allegations, had also made accusations against two other Bellevue officers, accusations that have since been thrown out.
When Mylett told his wife what was happening, she was staunchly determined that the family would get through the ordeal. He said that his children have a nickname for him — Mufasa, the name of the king of the Pride Lands in Disney’s “The Lion King” — to highlight his bravery.
Still, he and his wife spent three months in a constant state of worry.
“JoAnn and I, over the last three months, [have been] having to play the ‘What if?’ game,” he said. “The reality of it is, there are people sitting in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. And I was worried that I could be one of them, even though I know the truth.”
Not only was the damage to his career and professional reputation terrifying, but Mylett said that the thought that anyone could believe him capable committing such a reprehensible offense sickened him on a personal, moral level.
“I would never, number one, violate my marriage vows or offend my God,” he said. “And I would never commit a crime, especially something as heinous as this.”
Mylett, a 30-year police officer, military veteran, and ardent Christian, said that apart from a few traffic infractions, he has never committed a crime.
“I knew the truth … I prayed that the truth would come out,” he said.
Steve Mylett exonerated
Earlier this month, Mylett’s anxieties were at last lifted. Bothell Police Department investigators found him innocent of any wrongdoing, and Mylett was reinstated as police chief this week.
He said that his first reaction upon hearing the news was, “I’m going to get my life back.”
“It’s like being released from a never-ending nightmare that you live every day,” he said.
Investigators from the Bothell Police Department found the woman’s allegations had no credibility. A report released this week stated there is probable cause that the woman committed perjury and tampered with evidence. It will be up to the King County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether or not she will be formally charged with these offenses.
Mylett said that he is looking for “accountability and justice.” If she did not comprehend what she was doing, he said, he would like her to receive the mental health treatment she needs; if she was mentally competent enough to understand the seriousness of what she was doing, he would like her held accountable. He said that he still has no idea why she picked him for her allegations.
Bothell investigators found that the woman’s accusations crumbled under examination. She claimed that the alleged rape had occurred a house that Mylett and his wife had previously rented. However, Mylett pointed out that they were no longer living at the house at the time that his accuser said the crime took place.
“It’s through the skill set of the officer assigned to this case that he was able to reveal the truth,” Mylett said. “And once that happened, it was like a domino effect.”
Still, the process of listening to the woman was important one, Mylett said. As a police officer, Mylett knows that it is vital to listen to any accusations brought forward by people with mental health issues, as people with disabilities “also get victimized.”
“They have got to take it seriously, they have got to listen to the person that’s bringing it forward, with the understanding that there’s a presumption of innocence with the person that’s being accused,” he said. “And they afforded me that.”
Thankfully, Mylett said, the Bellevue community is very appreciative of and respectful toward law enforcement.
“In Bellevue, we’ve got tremendous support from the community members,” he said. “I think we’ve built enough trust with them where they give us the benefit of the doubt.”
Now that his name has been cleared, Mylett is thankful to be back in the job he loves with the people who support and encourage him every day.
“If I learned anything out of this, it’s patience,” he said. “And I had to learn the hard way, but I’m just grateful, Dori, to be back to work. The reception I’ve received since I’ve been back has just been more than I could have ever expected, from everybody.”
As harrowing as the experience was for Mylett, his family, and his friends, he is focusing on the future, rather than the past.
“I’m looking forward, brother; I am looking to get back in the seat, lead this exceptional police department that I was fortunate enough to be hired into,” he said. “I’ve got great people and I just don’t have time to be angry. I’ve got to move forward.”