Olympia announces shortlist for police chief vacancy


The City of Olympia announced its final list of three candidates for police chief in a press statement released today.

“The City is in the midst of a process to reimagine public safety through a community discourse,” said the press release, “and the new Police Chief will join that conversation as a listener, subject matter expert, and champion of the community’s vision for public safety.”

The three finalists are:

  • Syracuse, New York Police Chief Kenton Buckner
  • Detroit Michigan Deputy Chief Mark Bliss
  • Former Inkster, Michigan Police Chief William Riley, III

Kenton Buckner

Buckner started his 28-year police career in Louisville Metro Police Department in Louisville, Kentucky as a patrolman, retiring from the department in 2014 as Assistant Chief of Police then serving Little Rock, Arkansas afterward for five years as Chief of Police.

Buckner went on to his present post in Syracuse where he focused on “managing public safety in a way that is responsive to the community and reflective of national standards and best practices, and increasing trust, professionalism, and diversity in [the] department while working with the community to improve quality of life for all residents.”

An Eastern Kentucky University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Police Administration and a Master’s in Safety, Security and Emergency Management, Buckner also attended Harvard University’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program, the FBI National Executive Institute and completed the Southern Police Institute’s Administrative Officers Course.

Mark Bliss

The Detroit Police Deputy Chief in charge of the Office of Support Operations, Mark Bliss has been serving as a commanding officer for eight of the 23 years as a police officer which started in 1999, eventually becoming a precinct captain and Support Operations commander.

Bliss currently oversees the Detroit Detention Center, the Training Center, the Office of Internal/External Relations, the Chief’s Neighborhood Liaison, and the Management Services Section.

A graduate of the FBI National Academy; the Police Executive Research Forum’s (PERF) Senior Management Institute for Police; the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Executives and New Chief’s School; and is a Certified Labor Relations Specialist, Bliss also holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from John Carroll University and a Master of Science in Forensic Science from Michigan State University.

William Riley, III

William Riley, III started his 34-year career as a patrol officer in the Newport News Police Department in Newport News, Virginia, becoming captain and serving as Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division in his 24 years there. He became Selma, Alabama’s Chief of Police in 2008 where he “coordinated security with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in support of the annual celebration of the ‘Voting Rights March of 1965.’”

During his time as Inkster’s Chief of Police, Riley made reforms improving police service delivery before retiring earlier this year.

Riley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia, attended the Police Executive Research Forum’s (PERF) Senior Management Institute for Police; the Mid-Atlantic Supervisory Institute for Police Management and the North Carolina State Administrative Officers Management Program.

Public Forum

Community members are invited to hear the prospects answer questions in a virtual Town Hall meeting Tues., March 15, from 6 to 7 p.m. and submit questions through the Engage Olympia website. The public may also provide feedback on the website following the meeting.

“This is a pool of diverse and proven leaders in law enforcement,” remarked City Manager Jay Burney in the press release. “I am very pleased with our choices, and I’m grateful to the community and the Department for their patience through the process.”

Currently filled in by Rich Allen as interim police chief, the new chief of police will step in in the wake of calls for police reform and racially motivated protests and clashes with law enforcement in the city over the past two years.

The city's announcement specified that the new chief of police is expected to be hired and start service by the end of April this year.


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