Monday, during the Bellevue City Council’s public comment period, I expressed my concerns about the future of the Bellevue Marshal’s Office regarding Deputy Marshal Nate Silvester, the employee who posted a TikTok video on Black Lives Matter and law enforcement. After I spoke, the council heard others in support of that deputy and I want to comment on their talking points.
Comment: “One week suspension is enough.” It seems clear that Deputy Silvester will not stop his outreach activity if he is retained by the Marshal’s Office and will therefore continue to bring national attention and disruption to Bellevue.
Comment: “We need experienced officers like Silvester.” The conflicts between law enforcement and minority communities nationally suggest that many of the officers involved in that conflict are “experienced.” Experience is only good if it is tempered by discretion. Deputy Silvester’s “Hell, no” response to questions regarding any concern about his “thin blue line” advocacy, his plan to create an advocacy organization under his leadership with his GoFundMe windfall and his book proposal from the right-wing press suggest that with Deputy Silvester on the force, his social media savvy and public opinions will keep Bellevue in the national limelight for some time. Policing in Bellevue is 95% traffic management. We don’t need a SWAT team, sniper rifle expertise or national political distractions. We need officers who are community oriented and approachable.
Comment: “Deputy Silvester has First Amendment rights.” True, but like any employee his rights to employment are limited, by law, by local policy and by the employee’s behavior and impact on the organization. If an employee is disruptive or causes excessive conflict within the city, that employee needs to be disciplined, the ultimate discipline being dismissal.
There is no question that a person of Deputy Silvester’s persuasion will contribute to distrust of the Bellevue Marshal’s Office at a time when our nation is rethinking the role of law enforcement. Nothing makes me feel confident that Deputy Silvester will change his stripes.
When police display an attitude like Deputy Silvester’s, I feel threatened. Minority communities may feel threatened also. If we want to create an open door to our police force in which citizens feel welcome at City Hall and the Police Department, we need to cultivate that community relationship, not threaten it.
Deputy Silvester’s social media presence and political advocacy contribute to the polarization of the police force and affect the entire community in Bellevue. He has proudly not apologized or shown any recognition that his aggression is problematic. We cannot ignore that and allow it to continue.
Tom Blanchard is a former Bellevue city administrator and former Blaine County commissioner.