Seattle mayor ousts Pugel, picks new interim police chief
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to replace Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel with former Assistant Chief Harry C. Bailey in what could be the first step in a sweeping changing of the guard and makeover of the Police Department.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has decided to replace Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel with Harry C. Bailey, a former assistant Seattle police chief who retired in 2007 with a reputation for forging close ties to the community, sources briefed on the mayor’s plan said Tuesday.
Murray is expected to announce his decision at a Seattle City Hall news conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday, adding another chapter to the tumult and change that have roiled the Police Department since the Department of Justice found in December 2011 that officers too often resorted to excessive force.
Bailey’s appointment could usher in a sweeping changing of the guard and makeover of the Police Department, clearing the deck for a new permanent chief to be selected after a nationwide search.
Murray, through a spokesman, Jeff Reading, declined to comment Tuesday.
Murray is also expected to announce the formation of a citizen committee to search for a permanent police chief, with a fast-track goal of making a hire in three to four months with the aid of a community panel.
The moves come a week after Murray took office, fulfilling a campaign promise to make compliance with federally mandated police reforms a top priority.
Murray has been consulting for some time with a wide array of people, particularly Bernard Melekian, the former Pasadena, Calif., police chief and past Justice Department official hired as an adviser by Murray shortly after November’s election, the sources said.
Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s public-safety committee, said Tuesday as the news of Murray’s plan became public: “Mayor Murray is showing true leadership — making tough decisions.”
It was not immediately clear what will happen to Pugel, who was named interim chief in April to replace Police Chief John Diaz when he retired. Pugel, through a spokesman, referred questions to the mayor’s office Tuesday.
Pugel, who joined the department in 1983 and speaks often of his devotion to it, previously held the rank of assistant chief, but he has no automatic right to return to that position. Under civil-service rules, he could retain the rank of captain.
Pugel has said he would seek the permanent police-chief job, a stumbling block in light of what sources described as Murray’s desire to not have the department’s interim chief pursuing the position. Murray is concerned top candidates might not apply if they believe an interim chief possibly has an inside track, one source said.
Bailey, 69, who served 35 years in the Seattle Police Department, most recently worked for former Mayor Mike McGinn. He was hired as a consultant on community relations and police changes in June 2012, when the city was engaged in talks to reach an accord with the Justice Department after its finding that officers had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force. His salary was $75,000.
In July 2012, the two sides reached a landmark settlement agreement that required the Police Department to adopt broad reforms to address excessive force and biased policing.
Bailey was described then as someone who had worked with local, regional, state and federal agencies to address crime and related issues.
He also had been recognized for his work in law enforcement and community development efforts, including management of Seattle’s Weed and Seed federal grant for several years, McGinn’s office said at the time. The program targeted high-crime neighborhoods to weed out street crime and drug dealing while seeding the areas with social programs.
After leaving the Police Department, Bailey served as director of security for the Seattle Sonics and then the Oklahoma City Thunder after the team moved there following the 2007-08 season. He also has served as the volunteer security director for Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle.
Bailey, who is African American, is widely viewed as having deep ties in Seattle’s minority communities.
Pugel, who publicly embraced reforms after becoming interim chief, earned praise from the federal monitor overseeing the settlement agreement for helping to bring about changes.
But he also drew criticism for the way he handled the demotion announced in November of Assistant Chief Nick Metz , the department’s top-ranking African American. Metz was one of two assistants reduced to the rank of captain in the aftermath of a highly critical draft report from the monitor, Merrick Bobb, on the pace of reform.
Specifically, some observers questioned why Pugel took action against Metz but did not demote Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer, the longest-serving member of the brass.
Kimerer was named an assistant chief in 1999. He and Pugel, who was promoted to the rank in 2000, have worked together for years, developing a close relationship.
Bailey will be given wide latitude to make changes in the command staff, possibly leading to their eventual departures from the brass, according to sources.
While Bailey comes to the job with much department and community goodwill, he was a sergeant and vice president in the Seattle police union when it filed five lawsuits in 1994 against citizens, including a 16-year-old girl, accusing them of making false complaints to the department’s internal-investigations section.
All the suits were dismissed the following year when the union let them languish — raising the question of whether they were brought to have a chilling effect on others.
Seattle Times staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan and news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives. Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @stevemiletich
Information in this article, originally published Jan. 7, 2013, was corrected Jan. 9, 2013. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Seattle police Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer was the youngest officer to be appointed to that rank at age 43. Kimerer’s stepfather, Roy Skagen, was appointed an assistant chief in the department while in his 30s.