Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced this morning that he is replacing 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.
Murray said the move is no reflection on Pugel, who will return to the rank of assistant chief. He said Pugel is welcome to apply for the job of permanent chief, something Pugel has said he intends to do.
Murray said he is also creating a 12-member committee to help in the search for a new chief, which he hopes to name by April. He said a search firm will be also be brought in.
“The Seattle Police Department is a good department,” Murray said.
The change, announced during a packed news conference at City Hall, adds 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.
Murray’s move is aimed at fulfilling a campaign promise to make compliance with federally mandated police reforms a top priority.
This morning, Murray emphatically declared that police reform cannot wait, saying “failure is not an option.” He said Bailey, who will not seek the permanent job, needs to focus on that, without the burden of people questioning his motives.
Pugel was named interim chief in April to replace Police Chief John Diaz when he retired.
Pugel had said he would seek the permanent job, a stumbling block in light of 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.
Murray said he is looking for a new chief who can restore the morale of the Police Department. He also wants a chief who can restore the community’s respect for the department.
At Murray’s request, Pugel did not attend this morning’s news conference. Murray said he didn’t want to give the appearance that Bailey’s selection was a reflection on Pugel’s job performance.
However, in an interview Friday, as the rumors of his replacement circulated, Pugel told The Seattle Times that he fully expected to step aside as interim chief if that was a requirement for him to apply for the job of permament chief. At the time, Murray had not told him of his plans, but Pugel said he would do whatever it took to qualify as a candidate.
Murray acknowledged during the news conference there were certain “dangers” to bringing in a chief from outside the department. He said the new chief needs to understand the culture of the department and community.
Murray said Bailey will focus on leading the department as it moves toward reforms outlined in a landmark settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, which found after an investigation that SPD officers had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force.
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 U.S. Justice Department after its finding that officers had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force.
After leaving the Seattle police, Bailey served as director of security for the Seattle Sonics and then the Oklahoma City Thunder when the team moved there after 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.
Sgt. Rich O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, issued a news release congratulating Bailey on his appointment as interim chief.
“Chief Bailey has dedicated his life to public service and especially the Seattle Police Department. He worked his way up through the ranks and demonstrated throughout his career a commitment and love for this department and the Seattle community,” O’Neill wrote.
“SPOG looks forward to working with Chief Bailey as he leads the men and women of the SPD, while the city begins the process of searching for a permanent police chief.”