Leadership in flux at the Seattle Police Department

The federally mandated police reform process looms large as interim chief Harry Bailey makes staffing and structural changes.
Crosscut archive image.
The federally mandated police reform process looms large as interim chief Harry Bailey makes staffing and structural changes.

The Seattle Police Department’s command staff-overhaul continued on Wednesday as a recently demoted assistant chief was returned to his old rank. Interim chief Harry C. Bailey also announced that two department bureaus have been restructured — including one involved in the federally mandated police reform process. A new bureau housing Homeland Security units will also be created by the restructuring.

Bailey has promoted Captain Nick Metz to the rank of assistant chief. The promotion is a turnaround for Metz, who was demoted from his assistant chief post in November by former interim chief Jim Pugel. The announcement came a day after assistant chief Clark Kimmerer, a nearly 30-year veteran of the force, said he would retire in June.

The command staff has been in flux in recent months. The current round of turbulence began shortly after department brass took flack from federal police monitor Merrick Bobb in a report issued last November. Bobb's report said the top-ranking officers were moving too slowly to implement federally mandated police reforms. Later that month, Pugel demoted Metz and another assistant chief, Dick Reed.

Mayor Ed Murray replaced Pugel with Bailey in early January, explaining that Pugel’s interest in the permanent chief position created a conflict of interest. Around the same time, the Mayor appointed a pair of committees to find permanent Chief of Police candidates. Murray has said that he wants to consider applicants from within Seattle and around the country.

Bailey said in a statement on Wednesday that both the Professional Standards and Special Operations bureaus had been reworked.

Crosscut archive image.
A 2013 Seattle Police Department organizational chart shows some of the bureaus that the restructuring and staffing changes will affect. Source: SPD

When Murray appointed Bailey, he said the interim chief would be charged with moving along the reform process — a comment that could explain the bureau restructuring. The Mayor's office did not respond to requests for comment about the most recent staffing and bureau changes. 

When appointed, Bailey said he wanted to create a “compliance bureau” that would act as a “one-stop shop” for overseeing the implementation of the consent decree. The new Professional Standards bureau, now called Compliance and Professional Standards, reflects that plan.

SPD's Bureau of Professional Standards managed headquarters security, as well as audits, inspections, research and policy development for the department. The new and expanded version of bureau will include the “compliance office” staff, a civilian and officer team tasked with coordinating with the police monitor and the Department of Justice to meet reform requirements. The department’s education and training section will also move into the Professional Standards bureau. As will the newly created Force Investigations Team, which will respond to incidents such as officer-involved shootings.

Assistant chief Tag Gleason, who Bailey promoted in mid-January, will head the bureau. A 33-year veteran of the force, Gleason is an adjunct professor at Seattle University, where he also earned a law degree. According to his resume, Gleason served as a Russian linguist in the U.S. Army and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Puget Sound. He has also worked in the Office of Professional Accountability, which oversees complaints against the department.

In 2006, when he was serving as a captain in the violent crimes unit, he authored an article for Police Chief Magazine about the importance of ethics training for officers.

“The police agency and its members,” he wrote, “must be viewed as fair if the community is going to consider the department a legitimate authority.”

The other bureau being restructured, Special Operations, currently includes parking enforcement, as well as units like the harbor patrol, swat team and bomb squad. Under the new arrangement, units related to “homeland security” will move to their own, separate bureau, headed by assistant chief Paul McDonagh.

McDonagh, who joined the department in 1983, formerly commanded the Patrol Operations Bureau, which oversees SPD's precincts. During the 2012 controversy over the department’s purchase of aerial drones, McDonagh was the department's public face on the matter. Eventually, he apologized to the City Council for not being more transparent about the purchases.

Metz, who was reinstated as assistant chief, will oversee the Field Support Bureau, which includes human resources, information technology, “predictive policing” and the department’s 911 call center.

Field Support could prove central to the department’s reform effort. Bobb, the federal monitor, has made it clear that the department will have to undertake significant technology upgrades to meet the requirements of the consent decree, one of the key documents guiding the process. A December report specifically recommended a “Business Intelligence System,” with an estimated price tag of $11.87 million.

The commander who formerly led Field Support, Assistant Chief Michael Washburn, will become Bailey’s Chief of Staff. Washburn will replace Kimmerer, the long-serving assistant chief who yesterday announced his retirement.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors