King County grabs ex-Seattle police leader for top deputy post
by Bill Lucia
King County Sheriff John Urquhart, left, announces former Seattle Police Department interim Chief Jim Pugel as his chief deputy. Credit: Bill Lucia
Jim Pugel, the former interim chief of the Seattle Police Department, is stepping out of retirement to take over as second in command at the King County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff John Urquhart announced Pugel's appointment to the chief deputy post during a press conference on Monday morning. The sheriff noted that Pugel would be able to provide a valuable outside perspective to the office, has an understaning of policing in the Northwest, and has a reputation for progressive law enforcement.
"I could not be happier," Urquhart said. "I could not have more confidence in Jim."
Pugel, 55, left the Seattle Police Department in March, after earlier having expressed interest in becoming the permanent police chief. But Mayor Ed Murray replaced him as interim chief with Harry C. Bailey, who then moved Pugel to an assistant chief post. Murray has since appointed former Boston Police Commissioner, Kathleen O'Toole as the department's permanent chief.
"I've had an adequate break," Pugel said at the press conference.
Pugel's salary will be about $173,000, according to Urquhart. His annual salary in Seattle was $185,900 as of earlier this year, according to department records.
Urquhart touted Pugel's commitment at the Seattle Police Department to the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which redirects low-level offenders away from jail and toward services. King County is now also using the program.
Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of the Public Defender's Association, has been involved in LEAD since it was initiated in 2011. She was also on hand at Monday's announcement.
"I think this is a really inspired choice by the sheriff," she said. Daugaard added that Pugel had "achieved a position of national and international influence in some important new directions in policing, that really are what we need in King County at this time."
Daugaard also said Pugel has shown an ability to address long-standing public order issues in ways that don't exacerbate tensions and divisions between law enforcement and communities.
As interim chief, Pugel guided the Seattle department's ongoing efforts to comply with reforms mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice. In late 2013, he received high marks from the court-appointed monitor overseeing the reforms, even as the monitor, Merrick Bobb, complained about continuing problems in the department.
Urquhart's former chief deputy, Anne Kirkpatrick, retired from the King County Sheriff's Office in June, after 18 months. The sheriff said that Kirkpatrick had initially only intended to stay at the job for a year, because she planned to take a position with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Pugel said that during his brief retirement he had been gardening and traveling about one week each month to explain to policymakers and police officials in other countries — including Guatemala and the Republic of Georgia — how the LEAD program became a part of the Seattle Police Department's work.
"Everyone around the world is struggling with the criminalization of low-level nonviolent drug users and non-violent, non-predatory drug sellers," Pugel said.
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