In the 1960s, there was a police comedy on television called “Car 54, Where Are You?” These days, the pertinent question at the Seattle Police Department is, “Jim Pugel, where are you?”
Until just last month, Pugel was the interim police chief mounting an effort to win the permanent job.
Then new Mayor Ed Murray replaced him – with the explanation that he thought it best that the interim chief’s responsibilities not be colored by pursuing the permanent job
So Murray brought in a retired assistant Seattle police chief, Harry Bailey, to run the department and carry out federally mandated reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing.
As the new interim chief, Bailey immediately turned the department upside down, ushering longtime assistant chiefs out the door while molding his own command staff.
Pugel, with a pat on the back for his work as interim chief, returned to his previous rank, assistant chief. He was instructed to work on the department’s ongoing effort to reduce harm in drug policing and other enforcement.
Then weeks ago, word leaked that Pugel had been given an edict: retire or return to his civil-service rank of captain. In late January, one TV station trumpeted that Pugel was expected to retire, possibly within days.
At the same time, Bailey released a list of senior command staff. Conspicuously absent was Pugel’s name.
The department insists Pugel is still an assistant chief, working on a special project.
Yet there have been reports from department insiders that Pugel has cleaned out his office and not been seen in some time.
Some in City Hall have suggested the 31-year veteran is negotiating the financial terms of a separation agreement. His last reported salary in 2012 was $177,945.
But no one from the mayor’s office on down is shedding any light on what is happening.
Pugel, once one of the department’s most visible figures, has been unreachable by phone and email.
For now, call this matter “unsolved.”