By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced on Oct. 22 the promotion of two members of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to Assistant Chief.
Steve Hirjak will assume the role of Assistant Chief of Homeland Security/Special Operations and Deanna Nollette will serve as Assistant Chief of the Criminal Investigations Bureau.
A 25-year law enforcement veteran, Hirjak most recently served as captain of the Education and Training Section.
Community leader Frank Irigon wrote in an email to Chief Best, “He is the first Asian American that we’re aware of to have attained that rank and served on a Command Staff. It’s been a long time coming and we’re very grateful that you did the right thing.”
“I was floored and flattered,” said Hirjak, whose mother is Korean and father Czechoslovakian. “She (Chief Best) asked me to fill-in and of course, I’d do anything Carmen asks me to. But I never thought that I would be considered for the job.”
The fourth of five kids, Hirjak was born at Loring Air Force Base in Maine and grew up as a military brat. His parents met while his father served in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in Korea. Hirjak would follow in his father’s footsteps and serve six years in the USAF.
He fell in love with the scenery, culture, and food in Seattle and pursued a job here. He met his wife Tara of 13 years on the job at SPD. They have two daughters.
Prior to entering law enforcement, Hirjak said he always had a deep respect for the profession. He decided to become a cop himself after becoming a victim of three property crimes in a short period of time, but he never dreamed that he would be in the upper echelon of a big city police department.
“My goal was to make it to lieutenant. And if I made captain, that would be gravy,” said Hirjak.
Best said that Hirjak played an instrumental role on the SPD’s Force Investigations Team and is a national trainer on unbiased investigation and review of use of force incidents. She called him “conscientious, professional, and dedicated to creating safer communities.”
“Assistant Chief Hirjak has definitely earned his spot on the command staff and we’re very pleased to have him on the team,” Best told the Northwest Asian Weekly.
Hirjak serves as president of the Society for Integrity in Force Investigation and Reporting. He is also a graduate of Leadership Tomorrow Seattle and the Northwest Law Enforcement Command College.
When he’s not in law enforcement mode, Hirjak volunteers at his church, writes music and records in his home studio. He also describes himself as a technology nerd.
Irigon said, “Personally, I know my dearest friend and brother, the late Al Sugiyama, is very happy and giving high fives in heaven … having an Asian or a Pacific Islander in that (Assistant Chief) position meant a lot to him.”
When asked if he had words of wisdom for other Asians in SPD, Hirjak said, “Be consistent. Constantly stick to doing the right thing and you will eventually get noticed.” He also pointed out that he had mentors within the department who helped his career.
Nollette has been with the SPD for 22 years, and has helped further the department’s collaboration with regional and federal partners on multi-agency drug takedowns and large scale, long-running criminal investigations.
Best said she is confident that Nollette and Hirjak will lead their respective bureaus with honor and professionalism.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.