Woodinville’s new police chief, BJ Myers, is hoping to improve safety in ways that don’t always include increased police presence.
Myers said this may look like helping establish block watches for businesses and providing information about how environmental design can prevent crime.
“I’m interested in ideas like that,” he said.
Myers took the helm of the police department at the beginning of July after former chief Katie Larson retired. He’s been a member of the King County Sheriff’s Office for the entirety of his law enforcement career after joining the force in 2007.
At the time, he was bartending while finishing college at Seattle Pacific University and serving in the Air Force Reserves. Becoming a police officer was not even remotely on his radar, he said.
It wasn’t until he read an article in the Seattle Times about the city’s police officers that he considered law enforcement as a career path. The lifelong resident of King County joined the sheriff’s office as a patrol deputy, and first served at the White Center Police Storefront.
Myers has worked in a number of different positions in the department, including with other contract cities and heading the Special Assault Unit, which handles incidents such as child abuse, domestic violence and sex crimes.
His work in the unit and the partnerships he formed there had impressed Larson, the former chief said in a previous interview. Larson approached Myers to ask if he was interested in working for Woodinville and mentoring under her.
“I thought that’s pretty rare that you have someone with her position and experience make an offer like that,” he said.
He worked as a sergeant in the department, supervising the patrol deputies and detective, from September 2019 to January of this year.
“During that time, it became really clear that I loved working out here,” he said.
In January, he was promoted to captain and worked at the sheriff’s office headquarters. He wanted the Woodinville position in part because he enjoys working with the city staff, especially in regards for plans for growth, he said. As the population in Woodinville grows, he said, it will pose new opportunities and challenges for policing.
In his interview with the city for the chief position, he was asked questions on a number of difficult topics, such as the pandemic, civil unrest, and last year’s shooting that resulted in the death of the suspect and injuries to two officers, according to a city press release.
“With the prospect of new chaos seemingly arising daily, I am continuously impressed with Captain Myers’ ability to remain calm, collected, and thoughtful,” City Manager Brandon Buchanan said in the release. “I know that Captain Myers is deeply committed to community-based policing and will continue to build on the already-strong bond between the people of Woodinville and the law enforcement officers serving them.”
Myers said that he didn’t want to go forward with all of his ideas for the department until he’s gotten a better sense of what it is the community wants. However, he’s hoping to implement measures like increasing the officers’ presence in the community, by participating in activities such as Celebrate Woodinville.
Long-term, he hopes to increase the deputies’ criminal investigation abilities.
“It’s going to be hard for our crime rate to go down,” he said.
But a way to improve it, he said, would be to solve more of the crimes that do occur.
He’s aware there are a lot of ways law enforcement needs to improve. Myers said it’s clear “reform is needed,” but said the issues were complicated and he doesn’t have the answers.
Some of the changes he would like to see are in how officers view those they interact with.
“In policing, we have a tendency, because of our world, to identify some people as victims and some people as suspects, and put them into these kind of boxes and use labels,” he said. “… And there’s a use to that, but I think we also, daily, have to push back against that and remind ourselves that the person sitting next to me at the coffee shop and the person on the traffic stop that I’m issuing a ticket to is also a neighbor in the same community.”