Ex-SPD top cop exits retirement for No. 2 job in Sheriff’s Office
Former interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel will return to law-enforcement leadership in September when he becomes second in command to King County Sheriff John Urquhart.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Former interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel is returning to law-enforcement leadership next month as the No. 2 man to King County Sheriff John Urquhart.
On Monday, Urquhart named Pugel, 55, as his chief deputy in a surprising move that comes just three months after he was pushed out of the Seattle Police Department. Pugel was with the Seattle department more than 30 years before he was replaced as interim chief soon after Mayor Ed Murray took office.
“The synergy is going to be great. It’s going to be a situation of one plus one equals three, and I couldn’t be happier,” Urquhart said during a news conference. “This is getting the best person for the best job.”
Pugel said Urquhart came to him about a month ago and asked if he would succeed former Chief Deputy Anne Kirkpatrick, who announced her retirement in June.
“This is basically the senior VP position,” Pugel said in an interview after Monday’s news conference. “You’re responsible for working to run the organization.”
Pugel starts his new job Sept. 1. The Sheriff’s Office has about 700 sworn deputies; SPD has about 1,300 officers.
“A lot of the work I did with the city can transfer. I believe I can share some positive things,” Pugel said.
Pugel will make about $173,000 per year at the Sheriff’s Office. He said he also received about one year’s salary — about $183,000 — from the Police Department in a lump sum when he retired.
Pugel was receiving his police pension before he was lured from retirement. Now that he’s back to work as a sworn law-enforcement officer, his pension payments will be suspended until he retires again, according to the state Department of Retirement Systems.
Pugel said he will be expanding the department’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, in which officers can divert low-level drug dealers and addicts into treatment instead of taking them to jail. At the SPD, Pugel pushed the LEAD program into daily use by officers in downtown Seattle.
Since leaving the SPD, he has spoken to organizations around the world about the program.
“The low-level drug crimes have incarcerated an entire generation of young people, and mostly people of color. We cannot arrest our way out of society’s problems,” Urquhart said Monday. “We as police executives need to realize that.”
Lisa Daugaard, deputy director for the King County Department of Public Defense, spoke at Monday’s news conference in support of Pugel.
“I have the greatest respect for Jim Pugel. I think he’s enormously talented and has shown himself to be an innovator,” Daugaard, who has worked closely with Pugel in creating the LEAD program, said after the news conference. “I do think he has a strong relationship with men and women of the Seattle Police Department and that will strengthen the relationship between the two organizations.”
Pugel said the Sheriff’s Office will work with public defenders, social-justice groups and Seattle police in expanding the LEAD program in White Center and for Sound Transit. The Sheriff’s Office handles law-enforcement services for Sound Transit.
“We’ll be replicating the program and expanding it,” Pugel said.
Pugel became interim Seattle police chief in May 2013 after the retirement of John Diaz.
While serving as interim chief, Pugel said he planned to pursue the permanent position, putting him at odds with Murray’s condition that the interim chief not seek the permanent job.
Murray said he wanted an interim chief who could make decisions without having his motivations questioned.
Shortly after taking office, Murray named Harry Bailey as the new interim chief, replacing Pugel. Bailey said he wouldn’t apply for the permanent post.
Bailey served as interim chief until Kathleen O’Toole was hired.
Pugel returned to the assistant chief rank, with a special assignment to work on the department’s ongoing effort to reduce harm in drug policing and other enforcement.
Pugel later retired from the Police Department in lieu of being demoted to captain.
During Monday’s news conference Pugel spoke highly of O’Toole, saying he had met her only once, several years ago. He said she’s “a tremendous choice and a very, very good person.”
Urquhart said he did not notify O’Toole that he was naming Pugel as chief deputy.
The mayor’s office declined to comment on Pugel’s hiring.
Pugel, a Seattle native and University of Washington graduate, started as a volunteer reserve police officer in 1981. He was hired as a full-time officer in January 1983 and promoted to sergeant seven years later.
He supervised a patrol squad at the SPD’s East Precinct, then worked at the Basic Training Academy before being promoted to lieutenant in 1994. He was a watch commander and an operations lieutenant in the East Precinct before taking command of the sexual-assault unit.
In 1999, Pugel was promoted to captain of the West Precinct.
In 2000, Pugel became an assistant chief. As commander of the department’s investigation division before he was named interim chief, he earned wide praise for the unit’s work on high-profile investigations.