Aberdeen Police Department Chief Steve Shumate is retiring after 33 years in law enforcement.
Shumate, who was born in Grays Harbor County, has loved serving the Harbor. For his first 29 years in policing, he worked at Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. He called serving the Harbor an “absolute privilege.
“(It’s) where I have lived my entire life, and where my wife and I have raised our children,” Shumate said of his wife Mandy, their son Brad, and their daughter Mikayla.
His retirement letter, which is dated May 3, showed sincere appreciation to those whom he holds dear, both personally and professionally. He started it off by thanking former Grays Harbor County Sheriff Dennis Morrisette, who hired Shumate as a deputy sheriff in May 1989.
“It is hard to imagine that my law enforcement career started (33) years ago this month, when Grays Harbor County Sheriff Dennis Morrisette blessed me with the opportunity to serve as deputy sheriff,” said Shumate, who retires June 30.
Shumate, who has served as APD’s chief since 2018, thanked former Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson for appointing him as APD’s chief. Shumate also thanked current Mayor Pete Schave, and all levels of staff in the city, for their “support of public safety and their desire to improve the quality of life for everyone in Aberdeen.”
“I think we have all learned there are many societal challenges, such as violence, mental health, drug abuse and homelessness, which are beyond the ability of the police department to solve alone,” Shumate said. “The city needs to continue to work in partnership to address these various challenges.”
But, it also sounds like Shumate may miss the “exciting opportunities and adventure,” that his career has provided him.
Shumate called it an “absolute joy” to work closely with the staff and leadership of APD’s partner agencies, including his “good friend” Hoquiam Police Department Chief Jeff Myers — who is retiring July 1, as well as the Aberdeen and Hoquiam Fire Chief Tom Hubbard — who’s retiring June 10.
Myers congratulated Shumate with a Facebook post. In the post, Myers noted what an “awesome ride together” that they’ve had through the years.
Shumate also thanked Cosmopolis Police Department Chief Casey Stratton, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott, and E-911 Director Brenda Cantu, as well as “all the other countless public and private sector agencies with which we interact on a regular basis.”
He also recognized the community-based efforts that have “improved public safety and the quality of life for us all,” with a list that appears to make sure to leave out no one.
Shumate, APD’s chief for the last four years, recalled how he and community partners have tried to improve the police department since he was appointed.
“We have faced various trials and tribulations, all the while working hard to move the department forward to better serve our community,” he said.
Shumate noted in October 2018, the department completed a “top-to-bottom assessment” from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs in order to evaluate the policies, procedures and processes of the agency.
He said 114 recommendations for changes and improvements were made.
“Since receiving that report, we have continued to address every one of those recommendations,” he said.
As a result of the assessment, Shumate anticipates APD will be a state-accredited law enforcement agency by the end of 2022, with the last accreditation in 2001.
Shumate also championed how over the last three years, APD has resurrected its citizen volunteer program, hosted joint citizen academies with Hoquiam and Cosmopolis, recreated its patrol and narcotics canine programs, expanded APD’s bike unit, completed various facility improvements, increased training, improved its equipment, and solidified internal processes with modern operational policies.
Throughout Shumate’s time as chief, he noted many of the changes he’s seen APD go through, including more than 20 department employees who have retired or switched jobs; two years of COVID-19 pandemic impacts in staffing; a year of national police reform; social and civil unrest that includes local protests, and massive legal changes through state “police reform” legislation.
“‘(That) legislation, which has directly impacted our ability to prevent and respond to crime,” Shumate said.
Shumate explained the timing of his retirement to The Daily World.
“A lot of it has to do with our retirement system for police (and) fire in Washington state,” he said.
“By retiring at the end of June, our pensions qualify for COLA next July. If an officer were to retire in August, for example, then they would have to wait 23 months before qualifying for COLA because you have to be retired for 12 full months.”
Another reason he delayed his retirement is because of APD Commander Dale Green, who is attending the FBI National Academy. Green will graduate from the academy on June 9.
“Had it not been for that, I would have retired sooner,” Shumate said.
Shumate noted many other changes he’s seen throughout his time as the chief of police, but two issues in particular have worn him down.
“I will say that the challenges associated with the numerous changes in Washington state legislation, as well as the ongoing challenges addressing the homeless crisis gets to be very tiresome,” Shumate said.
Shumate touched on the sacrifices his family has made during his career.
“There (have) been so many occasions when my work interfered with my family, but I know they understood why it was important and I have appreciated their commitment and unconditional support,” Shumate said.
“I love each of them very much, and I plan on making up for it by spending more time in retirement with them, the rest of my family and friends, and of course, with my grandchildren.”
Before he ended with a message to all of those in the Harbor to stay safe, he closed by thanking current and former members of APD.
“I want to personally share my appreciation for your tireless devotion to our department in serving our city,” Shumate said.
“I have been so blessed to serve alongside each of you as your chief in this very special APD family. Please know you will always have my understanding, unwavering support, gratitude, and admiration for what you do each time you report for duty at the Aberdeen Police Department.”