Assistant Seattle Police Chief Clark Kimerer has informed the department of his intent to retire, ending a storied 30-year career that saw his star quickly rise but steadily fade in the face of federal findings that the department had not controlled excessive use of force.
His retirement, effective June 30, was disclosed to the department in an email today from Interim Chief Harry Bailey.
“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 wrote.
Kimerer, who was named an assistant chief in 1999 and was the longest serving member of the brass, is the fourth assistant chief to depart or be demoted as part of on-going shake-up in the department’s senior command staff. Assistant Chief Mike Sanford announced his retirement Jan. 13, and the department announced the demotions of assistant chiefs Nick Metz and Dick Reed to captain in November.
Kimerer’s departure represents the virtual end of the command structure that has held the reins of the department over a 15-year period. The last few years were dominated by a Department of Justice investigation that found officers had engaged in 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.
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 most influential members of the command staff, Kimerer — both as an assistant chief and a longtime deputy chief — was continually at the center of key decisions, crisis management and dealings with the City Council.
His retirement had been widely anticipated since Mayor Ed Murray took office earlier this month and quickly named a new interim chief, Harry Bailey, to replace Pugel in that post.
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.
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 has been viewed as an opportunity to clean house before a new chief is selected.
Kimerer, 58, held the rank of deputy chief when the Justice Department issued a scathing report in 2011 detailing its findings regarding excessive force and biased policing.
In 2012, the city entered into a landmark settlement agreement with the Justice Department which required reforms. The agreement led to the appointment of a federal monitor, who late last year issued a blistering report that cited foot-dragging in the command staff.
Even before the report, Kimerer’s title had reverted to assistant chief last year when Pugel, in one of first acts as interim chief, eliminated the position.
But Kimerer still held sway in the department.
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. He referred to the willingness of officers to file misconduct complaints against colleagues as a “salutary” time for the department.
Kimerer, who joined the department in 1983, 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. He also headed the department’s internal-investigation unit.
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.
Twice during Kimerer’s tenure in the top ranks, mayors formed blue-ribbon commissions to deal with police-accountability issues. From the first commission emerged the city’s creation of a civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability in the Police Department.