Influential SPD assistant chief Clark Kimerer to retire
Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer’s decision to retire amid an ongoing shake-up represents the virtual end of the command staff that ran the department over the last 15 years.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Assistant Seattle Police Chief Clark Kimerer plans to retire in June, the latest departure from a long-running command staff that oversaw the department as it came under federal scrutiny over the excessive use of force.
Kimerer, 58, made the decision Friday, and it was disclosed to the department Tuesday by Interim Chief Harry Bailey.
His retirement, effective June 30, will end a storied 30-year career that saw his star quickly rise but steadily fade in the face of federal findings that the department had failed to control excessive force by officers.
Kimerer, who was named an assistant chief in 1999 and grew increasingly influential as the longest-serving member of the brass, is the fourth assistant chief to depart or be demoted in the shake-up of the department’s senior command staff.
Kimerer couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
His departure represents the virtual end of the command structure that has held the reins over a 15-year period.
The last few years were dominated by a Department of Justice investigation that found officers had engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force and displayed troubling evidence of biased policing.
Only assistant chiefs Paul McDonagh and Jim Pugel remain from that era, with Pugel relegated to a special assignment on reducing harm in the policing of drug crimes and other enforcement.
Pugel, 54, who joined the department in 1983 and was named an assistant chief in 2000, has been given the option of demotion to his civil-service rank of captain or retiring, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Pugel could not be reached for comment.
Another longtime member of the command staff, former Police Chief John Diaz, retired last year. He had previously served as an assistant chief and deputy chief, the department’s second-highest rank.
As one of the key members of the command staff, Kimerer — both as an assistant chief and a longtime deputy chief — was at the center of important decisions, crisis management and dealings with the City Council.
His retirement had been anticipated since Mayor Ed Murray took office this month and quickly named a new interim chief, Bailey, to replace Pugel, who held that post after Diaz retired.
Bailey, a former Seattle assistant chief who came out of retirement, began assembling his own command staff, retaining some new assistant chiefs appointed by Pugel and promoting others to the position.
Currently there are eight assistant chiefs.
Bailey has pledged he won’t seek the permanent job, a condition set by Murray.
Pugel, while interim chief, had said he planned to pursue the job, which Murray hopes to fill by April.
Bailey’s appointment was widely viewed as an opportunity to clean house before a new chief is selected.
In addition, the City Council last week approved a measure allowing whoever is chief to hire law-enforcement officers outside the department as assistant or deputy chiefs.
Kimerer held the rank of deputy chief when the Justice Department issued a scathing report in 2011 detailing its findings. In 2012, the city entered into a settlement agreement with the Justice Department that required reforms.
A federal monitor appointed to oversee the agreement issued a blistering report late last year that cited foot-dragging in the command staff.
Even before the report, Kimerer’s title had reverted to assistant chief when Pugel, in one of his first acts as interim chief, eliminated the position of deputy chief.
In announcing Kimerer’s retirement plans, Bailey wrote in an email: “I want to be one of the first to say that Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer has served this Department and the people of Seattle with distinction, and his career is marked by contributions to public safety in Seattle which will last far beyond his years on the job.”
Bailey fondly recalled that he and Kimerer had been “friends and colleagues” for more than two decades, with many “good memories and not a few war stories.”
Known for his erudite bearing, Kimerer once explained that seeing a girl left badly injured by a speeding driver turned him into a “Calvinist” in enforcing drunken-driving laws.
After joining the department in 1983, Kimerer quickly rose through the ranks, serving as a sergeant, lieutenant and captain as he took on major assignments such as planning for the 1990 Goodwill Games and tackling downtown crime problems as commander of the West Precinct.
In 2000, Kimerer came close to being named interim police chief, after then-chief Norm Stamper retired in the wake of the department’s ill-prepared response to the World Trade Organization riots.
The job went to a retired assistant Seattle chief, Herb Johnson, who held it until the city hired Gil Kerlikowske for the post.
Kimerer’s name would be mentioned again after Kerlikowske left, but the job went to Diaz. By then Kimerer had gained a reputation as a predictable protector of a department where his mother retired as an assistant chief and his stepfather at the same rank.
Yet while Kimerer was sometimes called upon to defend the department’s handling of discipline, he also oversaw a scathing report that led to the resignation of Officer Ian Birk, whose fatal shooting of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams in 2010 shook the city and contributed to federal scrutiny.
He will work on special projects until his retirement.
Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter contributed to this story, which contains material from Times archives.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @stevemiletich