New Walla Walla Chief of Police hopes to diversify department

Ansley Peard, News Reporter

Contributed Photo by Chris Buttice.

On March 28, an article published in the Union-Bulletin announced the hiring of the new Walla Walla Chief of Police, Chris Buttice. Buttice will replace Scott Bieber, who announced his retirement in October of last year after ten years as chief. 

Whitman’s relationship with the WWPD has been varied over the past few years. In particular, there was controversy over the college’s relationship with the WWPD after Police Officer Nat Small was pictured online sporting an “SS” lightning bolt tattoo on his arm in public.

As a result, on June 28, 2020, President Murray announced in an email that Whitman would no longer work closely with the police department after their lack of response to this incident. Murray stated that law enforcement officers were no longer allowed to use Whitman facilities. 

Since this controversy, the WWPD has sought to improve its relationship with the public. Specifically, Buttice wants to keep the department close to the community and facilitate open communication with the public. He expressed his desire to hear from everyone, even those who may not be happy with the department.

“The beautiful thing about our nation is everyone has a right to their own opinion,” Buttice said. “I am not going to tell you your opinion is wrong. Having a respectful conversation without it being an argument, and respecting other people’s views is so critical to existence. If you have encountered experiences with police that paints them in a negative light, give us a chance to show you we can be different. Let’s have that conversation.”

In addition, City Manager Nabiel Shawa, who made the hiring decision for the position based on feedback from panelists and residents, says he hopes to see the department become more diverse.

“We want a police force that looks like our community,” Shawa says. “We need to have better diversity in ethnicity, and we need better gender diversity. We have only two female officers.”

Bieber supports this goal and said this is something he would have liked to improve himself during his time as chief of police.

“I would have liked to have hired more bilingual and bicultural candidates and I would have liked to hire more women. We have a pretty large Latino population of 25 or 30 percent,” Bieber said. “We should be more reflective of our community.”

Buttice graduated from Walla Walla Community College with a focus on criminal justice before he transferred to Eastern Washington University in 1994. He graduated from EWU with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology in 1996. Buttice was first hired by the WWPD in June of 1999 and has worked in nearly every position in the department. 

Buttice begins his position on May 1.