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UPDATE: Chief Pillo defends disciplinary action for officer
Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo defended her decision Thursday to remove one of her officers from the city's bomb squad as discipline for the 22-year veteran of the force's decision to drink while on-call and drive his department-assigned vehicle.
Dion Robertson had been attending an unsanctioned Bellevue Swat Team appreciation event Nov. 10 at the Issaquah Brewhouse. A fellow officer reported to supervisors witnessing the officer consume two beers before getting into a bomb squad truck and driving to another officer's house where he continued drinking.
Robertson's removal from the bomb squad represents a 4-percent pay cut. Pillo said in a press conference Thursday she followed the practice of progressive discipline based on labor laws. He was removed from his supervisory role with the bomb squad in 2012 after he and another officer were found to be drunk and disorderly at a Seahawks game in September of that year.
That other officer, Andrew Hanke, resigned from the department in January following a DUI charge in October. Hanke had been pulled over by another fellow officer and allowed to be driven home by his wife rather than be arrested. His next court appearance is March 11 for a pretrial hearing. The results of an internal investigation into Hanke and the officer who released him are still pending.
Pillo said Robertson, who remained on active duty during this latest internal investigation, "knows he's on thin ice," and defended her decision not to terminate the officer for his bad decisions that put the department in "poor light, again."
"For me to dole out termination, it's like the death penalty," said Pillo.
In Robertson's notice of discipline, it states the officer had not planned to drink before arriving at the Issaquah Brewhouse. Officers interviewed during the investigation stated Robertson was not impaired at any time the night of Nov. 10, said Pillo, and the officer defended his actions. Robertson was scheduled for a due process hearing Wednesday (Feb. 26) but cancelled.
Pillo cited the Seahawks incident in the notice of discipline as subjecting the department and city "to a firestorm of negative media publicity, negative public comments and multiple public records requests," and that Robertson received a lesser punishment because he'd made a "sincere commitment to no more errors in judgment."
"I put my and the Department's credibility and integrity on the line by giving you a second chance to demonstrate that you would at all times use good judgment to avoid tarnishing the Department's reputation," she states in the notice.
Interim City Manager Brad Miyake released a statement following the police department's stating the punishment is "firm and fair." It states with Pillo retiring in April, the city's transition plan includes "an internal assessment to evaluate the culture and to help determine the skills needed in our next chief." Pillo said Miyake has already assembled a group to assess Bellevue's policy for all city-assigned vehicles in every department.
“This investigation did bring to light the need for the city to look very carefully and thoroughly at its policies – specifically when it comes to driving a city vehicle," Miyakes release states. "It is poor judgment to drive any city vehicle after having a drink – even if you are below the legal limit," the releases states. "If our current policies do not clearly reflect that, then we plan to make the necessary changes.