For Tukwila Police Chief Bruce Linton, it’s all about service.
“For me, it is paying back a debt of gratitude,” said Linton, who immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean nation of Barbados as a teenager with his family. “I would have never had the opportunity to do what I do now. That is why (service) is so important to me.”
Linton became the 24th leader of the Tukwila Police Department on Oct. 16, 2017, after Mike Villa took a job as deputy chief of the Port of Seattle’s Administrative Bureau.
Linton has spent his 23-year law enforcement career in Tukwila.
“This is my first department, and this is going to be my last department,” he said. “I haven’t bounced around. I joined the Tukwila Police Department in 1994. I have stayed here ever since. It is a great department. I love working here. I love the city of Tukwila. I love the diversity. I love all the things we do. Advancements have come, so there hasn’t been a need to try to look elsewhere for myself.”
It was his desire to serve that led Linton to a career in the military.
After serving four years active duty in the military, Linton decided to become a police officer.
“A friend of mine who was in the military with me, he had just come back from flight school,” Linton said. “I came back after him. He was in the police department. He said, ‘Hey, you ought to apply.’ And I applied. Again my mantra was service, so that was another opportunity to serve.”
Linton, who is in the Army National Guard, took a leave of absence from the police department in 2007 to deploy to Iraq.
Being an immigrant in a diverse community like Tukwila, which has a high population of immigrants and refugees, gives Linton a unique perspective, he said.
“I can identify, and I want to take that and use that as a vehicle to say it is a world of opportunity out there for you. You just have to take it. It is not going to be easy. You have to work hard. I have worked hard. It is not given to you. If you put the effort and the hard work into it, you are going to do well,” Linton said. “That I can use that, that I can leverage that, especially with the young people, this is a great opportunity to engage them.”
Engagement is an important part of helping the department continue to succeed, Linton said.
“My idea is to step it up, and we step it through increased community engagement because the foundation to the police department, when we are talking about 21st century policing, that foundational piece is building trust and legitimacy,” he said. “We talk here in the police department about building your trust bank. You’ve got to make those deposits so that when times become tough, you can draw from those deposits. … The goal over the next several years is to really build on that. That means that our officers are going to have to engage and get out there and meet the folks.”
Early in his career, Linton never envisioned becoming chief.
“I would be lying to you if I said it never crossed my mind,” he said, “but the stuff was never my focus, and a lot of times it is timing and being prepared. If you are not prepared as far as having a variety of assignments, have some depth to your career, knowledge and your schooling. If you are not prepared when the opportunity comes along, you’re not going to be qualified. … In this case, there was a need, and I would say I was prepared, and the timing was right.”
Linton said he hasn’t put a time frame on how long he would like to serve as chief, noting that the average tenure is four to six years.
“If I am making a difference, that is a good thing. If I am not making a difference then I need to re-evaluate,” he said. “A chief has to make a difference in the community.”