Mike Bailey is no longer just acting as captain of the Oak Harbor Police Department.
The 22-year veteran of the police department is being officially sworn in this week as the department’s new second-in-charge.
Bailey took on the “acting captain” role in January after serving in just about every commissioned officer position in the department, including some that no longer exist.
Police Chief Kevin Dresker said Bailey will provide a steady, dedicated hand in a department roiled by internal strife in the past.
“Mike deeply cares about Oak Harbor and the police department,” Dresker said.
The former captain left amid controversy in January, just a few months after Dresker was hired as the new police chief. The department advertised the captain position nationwide and a number of candidates from outside the city were interviewed, as was Bailey.
The choice came down to Bailey and another candidate, but Bailey’s years of service in the department pushed him to the top, Dresker said.
The two men are simpatico when it comes to their vision for the department, which emphasizes visibility and a strong relationship with the community.
“It’s important that the chief and the captain are on the same page,” Bailey said, adding that he’s found Dresker to be a “great leader” and accepting the job was an easy decision with him as chief.
Bailey is respected across the county’s law-and-justice system.
“Mike’s a great choice,” Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said. “He’s has a wide breadth of experience and the confidence of his peers. We look forward to working with him in his new role.”
Bailey started out as a reserve officer at the Oak Harbor Police Department in 1990 but then left to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University. He returned, degree in hand, and was hired as a full-time patrol officer in 1995. He was promoted to field training officer the next year.
Over the years, Bailey has also held the positions of patrol sergeant, detective, detective sergeant and community service officer. His most unique position was as the department’s canine officer.
Bailey and a German shepherd named Bak took a 14-week course in Vancouver, B.C. in 1998. Bak was a valuable patrol dog but was known for incessant barking inside the patrol car.
“I’m lucky I still have my hearing,” Bailey joked.
Bailey had two dogs — Bak and Yoda — for about a year and a half after the police chief at the time wanted to transition from a patrol dog to a drug-sniffing pooch. Bailey became a detective in 2006 and Yoda was transferred to another officer; the canine officer position in the department went away after Yoda retired.
Bailey said he most enjoys the detective side of the department. He likes that detectives follow cases to their culmination and often get to know the victims well. After Adam Garcia was murdered in 2014, for example, the detectives developed a meaningful relationship with many members of the young man’s family, he explained.
Bailey said one of his cases that was most read about in the Whidbey News-Times was a Craigslist prostitution sting about a decade ago. Oak Harbor detectives and agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service ran a couple of sting operations and arrested five suspected prostitutes.
The job description for the police captain position sounds exhausting. It involves everything from overseeing major crime investigations and dealing with citizen complaints to analyzing data for reports and representing the city in internal and external committees.
In fact, he said, many departments divide the position into two, with one captain being strictly administrative.
“One thing’s for sure,” he said. “I get a lot more emails.”