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January 7, 2014 at 2:56 PM

New interim chief to head Seattle Police Department

Harry Bailey, who retired as an assistant police chief in 2007.

Harry Bailey, who retired as an assistant police chief in 2007.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has decided to replace Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel with a former SPD official, Harry C. Bailey, who retired as an assistant chief in 2007, according to sources briefed on the mayor’s plan.

Murray is expected to announce his decision Wednesday, adding another chapter to tumult and change that has rocked the Police Department since the Department of Justice found in December 2011 that officers too often resorted to the use of excessive force.

Murray, through his spokesman Jeff Reading, declined comment this afternoon.

Murray is also expected to announce the formation of a search committee to find a permanent police chief, with a fast-track goal of making a hire in three to four months, according to sources.

It was not immediately clear what will happen to Pugel, who was named as interim chief in April to replace retiring Police Chief John Diaz. Pugel, through a spokesman, declined comment this afternoon.

Pugel, who joined the department in 1983,  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 job, a stumbling block in light of what sources described as Murray’s desire to not have an interim chief seeking the position. Murray is concerned that top candidates might not apply if they believe an interim chief possibly has an inside track, the sources said.

Bailey most recently worked for former Mayor Mike McGinn. He was hired as a consultant in June 2012, at a time when the city and the Justice Department were engaged in talks to reach a settlement on changes to the Police Department in the wake the finding that officers had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of excessive force.

In July 2012, the two sides reached a landmark settlement that required the Police Department to adopt reforms to address excessive force and biased policing.

Bailey, who his in his late 60s, joined the Seattle Police Department in 1972, and has worked with local, regional, state and federal agencies to address crime and related issues, McGinn’s office said in a news release at the time he was hired as a consultant.

Bailey has 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, the news release said. 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 private criticism in some city circles for the way he handed the demotion announced in November of Assistant Chief Nick Metz, a popular African-American police official who was one of two assistants reduced to the rank of captain in the aftermath of highly critical report from the monitor, Merrick Bobb, on the pace of reform.

Specifically, some observers complained that Pugel didn’t go far enough, questioning why Pugel did not demote Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer, one of the longest-serving members of the brass. Both men had worked together for many years, forging a close relationship.

Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s public-safety committee, said today as the news of Murray’s plan became public: “Mayor Murray is showing true leadership — making tough decisions.”

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: Department of Justice, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle Police Department


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