The Legends Campaign, a partnership between Reign FC and Avanade, honors women for their extraordinary contributions in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Prior to our May 27 match against the North Carolina Courage, Reign FC will recognize Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson as a Reign FC Legend.
Born in Seattle, Wilson played on a traveling softball team growing up, where she first became interested in police work after listening to a teammate’s parent who was a King County Deputy discuss their work. She attended Highline High School in Burien where she was a three-sport athlete in volleyball, basketball and softball.
Wilson played collegiate basketball for the Central Washington University Wildcats. After graduating, Wilson joined the Anacortes Police department in 1987, where she spent part of her time as a K9 officer.
She transferred to the Redmond Police Department in 1993, becoming a lieutenant four years later. In Redmond, Wilson has worked to develop a system of community-based policing, including writing a federal grant proposal to establish a unit that helps victims of domestic violence and offers them access to legal aid.
Wilson graduated from Gonzaga University with a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership in 2013 and is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy, a professional leadership course for law enforcement leaders.
Wilson became Redmond’s Police Chief in 2016 and has also served as the interim Public Works Director. An avid hiker, Wilson is an Ambassador for the Washington Trails Association.
Wilson lives in Snohomish county with her daughters, Myah and Kylie. On June 7, she will retire after 32 years of public service.
What does being recognized as a Reign FC legend mean to you?
It’s really humbling, honestly. I certainly didn’t come into this profession to put my name on a wall or anything like that. I think anytime you can do something to honor people in a community, it gives people the ability to look at that work and say to themselves, ‘that could be me. I could do something like that, too.’
What lessons from sports can you apply to everyday life?
I think you learn so much from playing sports. Lessons beyond the technical aspects of the game. You learn teamwork and problem-solving; how to deal with the highs of winning big games and the lows of losing them. I think you build a good rapport with people that come from a wide variety of places. Most everybody I played with as a kid were not people I knew. They came from all over the Puget Sound. When I went to college, we had people from out of state. You learn to interact and bond with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. I use (those skills) here. It translates well to law enforcement, since we’re a team. We’re independent, in our own car, but we work on squads. You work for a community. It’s all the same foundation. You can learn from high-stress situations playing sports. You learn to manage your stress level and be the person who’s shooting the free throw with no time left and you’re either going to win or lose. That’s law enforcement too. We’re in high-stress situations and microseconds matter.
How important is it to have professional women’s sports teams?
I think it’s awesome. When I grew up, we never saw that. I don’t know that we even necessarily dreamed of women’s professional sports in this area. You see the following. You’re watching kids now—like my kids—that have grown up in an environment where they haven’t known anything different. I think giving girls the idea and the reality that they can do anything, that anything is within their reach, is really important. They see people who look like them, who came from where they came from and they think ‘that could be me. I can achieve that.’ I don’t think it can be understated how important that is. When I came up and said at 20 that I wanted to be a police officer, people looked at me funny. It just didn’t exist. Now people see me in the community and the kids don’t see anything different. They know they can grow up and do this.
What have you grown to appreciate about police work?
I love this profession. Every day is different. No two calls you go on are the same. You never know what’s going to happen. You can have slow days, you can have busy days. It attunes your mind to be attentive to what’s going on, since you never know what’s going to happen.
What I love most about it, though, is the level of interaction, being able to help people. Nobody ever calls the cops to tell us what a great day they’re having. People call us when they’re in a bad situation. You see people at what could be a low point in their lives. It’s important to remember that it’s just a point in time for them, knowing it’s not a measure of who they are as an individual. I love the level of impact you can have on people and the impact they can have on you which change your policing style. You can interact with people and provide services that get people into a place that they need to be, as opposed to just writing people tickets, arresting them and sending them to jail. There’s so much more to this job that people don’t really understand that officers do on a day-to-day basis. I think that’s what I like the most.
What accomplishments are you proudest of during your time in public service?
I’m most proud of the way I police. I’m not big on the number of tickets we write or the number of arrests we make. For me, it’s about the impact we have on people in our community. I think we do that in a wide variety of ways. Our community court where we get people into the proper services instead of the justice system, because they need help and that’s the right route for them. There’s a homeless program that we started so that we can connect people with the right resources so that we can prevent them from getting into the justice system. It’s about the variety of things that can have a longer, more lasting impact on our community than our justice system does.
How did you become the leader you are today?
I think I’ve had a few impactful events in my life that got me to this place. People that I’ve met along the way have changed the way I think about things. I’m a breast cancer survivor. I think any time you go through a life-altering event like that, it resets your compass and helps you pay more attention to what’s really important in life. Becoming a parent changed my perspective, because I couldn’t just do whatever I wanted, I had a little kid I was responsible for and had to help them grow up to be responsible adults. I grew up in a middle class family, where we instituted that work ethic that I think is so important and part of who I am.
There are a lot of things that mix together to make you who you are as an adult. It’s a constant evolution. You should never get to a point where you think that you’re done growing. You should always continue to evolve. Some of it is not being bashful about stepping out when you know that there might be no one else around to do it. Being willing to take a chance and say ‘this is the right thing to do.’
What advice would you give to young women who are pursuing dreams in a field where they are underrepresented?
Even though we’re half the population, we’re still hovering at about 10 percent of the law enforcement population. Only about 1 percent of chiefs are women, but that only changes the more people we have come into this profession. I think we can’t be hung up about joining a male-dominated field. We have to do that. That’s how we break barriers, by stepping in and saying ‘no, I’m competent enough to do that. I possess the skills to do that. I’m passionate about that. This is what I want to Do.’ Be the leader who forges that ground.
What will you miss the most about police work?
The people. I’ve known a lot of the employees here for my entire career. I’ve hired probably close to 95 percent of this department. I’ve watched them evolve from rookies to supervisors and management personnel. You build a lifelong relationship with people. I’ll miss the people the most.