Seattle won’t be the only city shopping for a new police chief this year: Bellevue’s city manager announced today that on April 15 Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo will retire, 35 years after she entered public service.
Pillo is ending her 28 years at the Bellevue Police Department with plans to enjoy some sunshine in Palm Springs.
Her career is full of community-service contributions that include starting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in Bellevue, helping form the Bellevue Police Foundation and serving on the board of several local nonprofits including Youth Eastside Services (YES), Youth Link Board and the Bellevue Rotary. She became police chief in 2007.
But the department has also faced turmoil in the past year. Since fall 2012, Pillo’s had to make widely scrutinized decisions about how to punish two drunk off-duty officers who were acting belligerently toward families and Seattle police at a Seahawks game. One was demoted and the other, Andy Hanke, was suspended for 30 days. Hanke was charged with a DUI last year in a separate incident and decided to resign earlier this month.
Pillo also investigated and demoted two commanders who failed to report an extramarital affair that Pillo said would “impact the department for years to come.”
“People are people and, yeah, we’ve had some incidents when a small fraction of our force made some frankly stupid decisions,” Pillo said in an interview Thursday. “I feel like I issued fair yet firm discipline.”
Exactly 35 years before the date she plans to retire this year, Pillo entered public service as a fresh Washington State University graduate at the Mercer Island Police department. She wanted to be a probation officer but saw a job posting for a “patrolman.”
“I thought, ‘What the heck, I have a criminal-justice degree,” Pillo wrote in an e-mail announcing her retirement to city staff. “I’ll give it a go and get some experience so I can be a probation counselor.”
She wound up sticking with patrol and investigations at that department and then again at the Bellevue Police Department seven years later at a time when there were few women working in police departments nationally.
Throughout the years Pillo served as a detective, hostage negotiator and cultural diversity instructor.
She eventually became Bellevue’s first female captain, major, deputy chief and chief.
“She helped blaze the trail for women in the field of law enforcement,” said Bellevue City Manager Brad Miyake in a statement. “Our city is no doubt a better place because of her service and leadership.”
Miyake said he expects the city to choose its next chief later this year, but wasn’t more specific than that. He said the city would be taking full advantage of the transition time to immediately start a recruitment process.