Four finalists for Bellevue police chief addressed the lessons of Ferguson, Mo., building community trust, and possibly introducing bicycle patrols, in their first meeting with local media.

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Four finalists to fill the opening for Bellevue police chief addressed the lessons of Ferguson, the importance of diversifying the department and the possibility of starting bicycle patrols in their first appearance before the local media Thursday.

Stephen Mylett, police chief in Southlake, Texas, called the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-yar-old in Ferguson, Mo., a “national tragedy” and said it would prompt police departments to add body cameras to record the circumstances surrounding a shooting.

He said one problem in Ferguson was a police force that didn’t reflect the diversity of the community it served. Still, he said, “the national outrage surprised me. We’ve made tremendous strides as a profession in my 26 years” in responding to the needs of the community. He said the message to police was: “Now is the time to listen.”

Drew Tracy, a former assistant chief with more than two decades’ experience with the department in Montgomery County, Md., said Ferguson’s problems didn’t start with the shooting. He said the incident showed “the investment wasn’t made … (earlier) to get close to the community, to know the community’s concerns.”

Police have to know when to engage, he said, and when to use disengagement tactics, including getting help from others in the community such as mental-health professionals.

The appearance before reporters was part of a two-day introduction to the community and public job interview.

City Manager Brad Miyake said he will likely narrow the finalists to one or two next week and then conduct more extensive background checks, as well as possibly make visits to the finalists’ police departments. All four are veteran law-enforcement officers and all are from out-of-state.

Miyake said he wants a seasoned leader with a strong command presence, effective communication skills and one who values Bellevue’s growing diversity.

Candidates were asked Thursday how they would make the Bellevue department more racially diverse. The city’s population is now about 40 percent minority, while the police force is more than 80 percent white.

Chuck Miiller, assistant chief with the Phoenix Police Department, said the Bellevue force needs to reflect the community it protects and serves. He said that could be done by “continuing the community outreach, continuing to value inclusivity, the respect and the skills our employees bring to the table.”

The Bellevue Police Department experienced several embarrassing disciplinary issues over the past few years, including officers’ public drunkenness and an extramarital affair. Members of the media wanted to know both how the candidates would handle discipline and communicate problems to the public.

Gary Yamashiroya, a commander in the detective division of the Chicago Police Department, said police need to balance officer safety and the integrity of an investigation with their responsibility to inform the public about what happened, particularly in high-profile incidents.

“I struggle with that. There’s information that needs to get out there, but there’s information that’s vital to the investigation.” He said that in the wake of Ferguson, where the police were slow to release information on the shooting of Michael Brown, the questions about timely disclosure “is being discussed nationally.”

The finalists praised the Bellevue department as enjoying high levels of support from the community and high marks for safety. Major crime in Bellevue, murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, fell to a five-year low in 2013 of 125 incidents. Property crime was up to a five-year high of 4,099 incidents, but acting Chief James Montgomery said in the department’s annual report that an aggressive emphasis on burglaries resulted in more than 60 arrests in 2013.

Two of the candidates, Tracy and Yamashiroya, spoke enthusiastically about bicycle patrols, saying they gave the police an important street presence, particularly in business areas, while also allowing them to cover more ground than regular foot patrols. While Seattle has used bike officers for several years, Bellevue has not.

“I’m a big believer in mountain bikes,” Tracy said.

This is the second police chief search in the past year for Bellevue. The previous one was scrapped after five finalists were announced in October. The leading candidate withdrew before the selection process was completed and the city elected to start over with a more targeted recruitment effort rather than offer the job to another finalist.