Police leadership shaken up as Murray presses reform
Stressing that he wants to move forward on police reform, Mayor Ed Murray said Tuesday that he is replacing Seattle’s interim chief of police, Jim Pugel, with former assistant chief Harry Bailey. He also revealed details about the permanent police chief search process and said he’d like to fill the position by April.
Murray named the members of a search committee and a community advisory committee, which will work together to find a new permanent chief. Pugel has indicated that he is interested in the job. Removing him from the interim post, Murray said, would eliminate any conflicts of interest that might arise if he applies. Murray said an interim chief who is not looking to take the top job permanently would be freer to make tough decisions about the federally mandated police reform process that is underway in Seattle.
“Currently the hiring process and the consent decree are on a collision course,” Murray said. “I am not willing to wait for hiring a permanent chief to move forward on the consent decree.”
The consent decree is one of the key documents guiding the reforms, which were triggered by a 2011 Department of Justice investigation that found patterns of excessive force violations within the Seattle Police Department.
Co-chairing the search committee will be Pramila Jayapal, an immigrant rights activist, and Ron Sims, former King County Executive and deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a display of unity, the committee co-chairs, Bailey, City Council member Bruce Harrell, who chairs the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, and City Attorney, Peter Holmes stood alongside Murray and made remarks during the press conference.
A 35-year law enforcement veteran, Bailey began with the Seattle Police Department in 1972 and retired in 2007. The new interim chief said he would create a “compliance bureau” that will act as a “one-stop shop” for all the “elements” of the consent decree. Murray said that Bailey would also look at technology, training and staffing issues related to the reforms. Bailey and Murray did not say if there would be other high-level staff changes.
“My goal now is to get started with reform,” Bailey said.
Merrick Bobb, the monitor overseeing the reforms, has criticized the Seattle Police Department for moving the process along too slowly. Shortly after he issued a critical report in late November, Pugel demoted two deputy chiefs to assistant chief positions.
For the time being, Pugel will move to the rank of assistant chief. He took the department's reins after former Chief John Diaz stepped down last April. Murray said the demotion had nothing to do with his performance and was “not a reflection of Jim Pugel or his work.” Pugel was not at the press conference; Murray said he thought it was best that he not attend.
The citizen advisory committee has 35 members and the search committee has 12. Among the members of the search committee are Harrell; Council President Tim Burgess; Ron Smith, the incoming president of the of Seattle Police Officers Guild; and Eric Sano, president of the Seattle Police Management Association, the union that represents police captains and lieutenants.
The management association has expressed opposition to a City Council proposal that would change police department hiring rules so that chiefs could hire their assistant chiefs, “known as command staff,” from outside the department. Because the rule would enable a chief hired from outside the city to bring in out-of-town assistants when taking the job, it's viewed as something likely to attract more well-qualified candidates from around the country.
Murray has emphasized that he will look both within and outside the city for a replacement chief. The search process will start sometime in the next two weeks. The mayor said that he did not know the names or number of any potential applicants. In a recent interview, Murray said he would like to find a chief that will stay on through his entire term, if not longer, and that he wants to find someone who has experience with carrying out reforms.
“We are going to reform this police department,” Murray said on Tuesday. “Arguing with the Justice Department is not acceptable, we need to move on. We need this cloud removed.”