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Bellevue police chief recalls 35 years in law enforcement
When Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo started her 35-year career in law enforcement as an officer in Mercer Island in 1979, it was still odd for people to see a woman on the force — there wasn't even a women's locker room.
"I just always took my uniform and went to the restroom," said Pillo during her retirement party Tuesday at City Hall. "I remember having to convince citizens that I was a real police officer." She added the tickets she issued always got the point across.
After joining the Bellevue Police Department in 1986, Pillo steadily rose up the ranks, becoming the first female police chief in 2007. She was also the first female captain, major and deputy chief.
"She was pretty much the first woman going up every rank starting at sergeant," said Mayor Claudia Balducci during Tuesday's retirement party. "… We have just a really safe city and a great (police) department, and for the past seven years that's been under the leadership of Chief Pillo."
City Manager Brad Miyake said Pillo has always been an advocate for her department, refusing to compromise on the quality of service it provides. She was also an intimidating force when Miyake was still acting as city budget manager.
"She always made sure she crossed her leg and showed her gun on her ankle," joked Miyake.
Pillo said she plans to spend her retirement as a snow bird, spending part of her time in Palm Springs and working on her golf game. Her last act as chief during her speech to law enforcement, city staff and family and friends on Tuesday was to turn off her cellphone, saying she is no longer on call. Former Police Chief Jim Montgomery is coming out of retirement to replace her temporarily as a nationwide search for a permanent chief continues. He starts once he is recertified as a peace officer in Washington state.
Pillo was recognized Tuesday by the FBI and Secret Service for her dedication to law enforcement, and was also gifted her past police badges in a picture frame by the Bellevue Police Benevolent Foundation, which hosted the event. Pillo thanked her family, friends, mentors and the command staff at the police department she says will continue to serve the city well.
"I know the department is in such good hands," she said.