By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Job 1 for the Southwest Precinct‘s new commander, Captain Steve Wilske: Get to know our area and the people already serving it as part of SPD.
He’s moving into his new office at the precinct in West Seattle this week, two weeks after his appointment was announced, following former SWP commander Joe Kessler‘s promotion to Assistant Chief and interim commander Capt. Pierre Davis‘s move to the East Precinct on Capitol Hill.
This is Capt. Wilske’s first time in the role of precinct commander; he’s held numerous leadership positions in his 27 years with Seattle Police, and was promoted to captain last summer. We requested an interview as soon as his appointment here was announced, and sat down for a conversation in a local coffee shop last Thursday.
As a captain, he has been leading the department’s relatively new Force Investigation unit, created less than a year ago – any time there is a “significant” use of force involving an officer, or if there’s a “serious assault” on an officer, that unit investigates, he explained. The role was created in tandem with the U.S. Department of Justice‘s monitoring of SPD operations, so he has been working with the monitoring team, “making sure concerns are addressed.”
Before that, his 14 years as a lieutenant included leadership of the SWAT/negotiations team for five years and the Homicide Unit for three years. While it’s a managerial role, Capt. Wilske says he also did some rappelling while with SWAT, and was cross-trained as a negotiator.
Commanding the Southwest Precinct means he gets involved with patrol again after nine years, and he says he’s always enjoyed that work. He says he came to police work “relatively late” – he was 25 when hired. In earlier years, his jobs included being a commercial diver. He’s originally from Eastern Washington and moved to this side of the Cascades for the diving program at Highline Community College in Des Moines.
He expects to attend many community meetings, at least in the first months of his assignment, rather than delegating to the Operations Lieutenant or others. As for who will be the Operations Lieutenant – second-in-command of the precinct – Capt. Wilske says that decision hasn’t been made yet, but likely will be soon; “so many moves” in the department, and they all have domino effects, he points out: “Every move generates a move, and another move …”
If you’d like to welcome him yourself, follow our announcements of community meetings – when we find out in advance which ones he’ll be at, we’ll include it in the previews. Since he has not worked in this area before, he acknowledges he’ll have a “steep learning curve,” and plans to spend a lot of time listening – to the community, and to the officers he’ll now be leading – as he “immerses (himself) into things here.” Until he feels he has “a good handle on the concerns and what we’re currently doing to address them,” he won’t speculate on any specific changes in precinct focus. He knows the precinct has a “really squared-away, solid crew” and little turnover, so he wants their input on whether anything needs to be changed – “is what we’re doing working? Even if it is, how do we improve it?”
Overall, Capt. Wilske says, he’s “fairly low-profile … just my nature to try not to be the center of attention.”
SIDE NOTE: The Southwest Precinct is one of five into which the city is split for SPD purposes – see the full citywide map here. For patrolling purposes, it’s broken into two sectors of three beats each – they are mapped here.
(Photo credit: WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand)