Bellevue’s interim police chief addresses police reform, outlines vision for the department

Aug 6, 2021, 2:26 PM | Updated: 2:50 pm
Bellevue Interim Police Chief...
Wendell Shirley (left) with former Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett. (City of Bellevue)
(City of Bellevue)

Bellevue Interim Police Chief Wendell Shirley has replaced former Chief Steve Mylett, who is scheduled to begin as police chief of Akron, Ohio, on Aug. 9.

The City of Bellevue is currently looking for a permanent replacement for the role.

In an interview with the KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show, Shirley spoke to his vision for the Bellevue Police Department, touching on the Washington Legislature’s recent police reform. More specifically, he shared how his department has been affected by House Bill 1054, which establishes limits on the equipment used by officers.

While a well-intentioned piece of legislation, which, in part, attempts to limit the militarization of Washington state police, its scope of definition for “military equipment” has encompassed less-lethal equipment, such as shotguns used to deploy bean bag charges.

Rantz: King County Sheriff’s Office, other agencies pull several non-lethal tools

“I will also say I certainly would have liked — and I’m sure my fellow chiefs and sheriffs would share the same thought — the laws would have have been much, much clearer than they are, so that there’s not this confusion,” Shirley said. “We’re having to backtrack and try and figure it out while we’re implementing it when it came into effect July 27. So I wish the laws would have been much more clear.”

Wendell indicated that it is his will to work with the city attorney’s office to implement the laws as they were intentioned. On the subject of police reform, he alluded to the Office of Independent Review’s analysis of Bellevue Police.

“OIR Group works with local governments, community members, and police agencies to address these contemporary challenges and collaborate on sustainable reforms,” reads the group’s website.

The report made 47 recommendations, including the use of body cameras in Bellevue.

“We’re looking at a body worn camera program. We’re working hard to research and bring that forth to our police officers,” Shirley said. “We’re also working through those policies and where we can adjust and fit in with what the report’s recommendations were.”

Shirley retired as a captain after 26 years of service with Santa Monica Police Department. He came out of retirement after “seeing the national conversation as it relates to law enforcement and communities in 2020,” he said during the interview. “I felt like my leadership style and what I had to give could contribute in some way.”

The interim chief also did indicate that he has not applied for the permanent position in Bellevue.

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Bellevue’s interim police chief addresses police reform, outlines vision for the department