Flanked by immigrant rights advocate Pramila Jayapal and former King County Executive Ron Sims, Mayor Ed Murray announced today that he's appointing former assistant police chief Harry Bailey, a 35-year veteran on the force, to replace interim police chief Jim Pugel while the city conducts a fast-tracked search for a new, permanent chief.
Murray said his decision to demote Pugel (whom former mayor Mike McGinn appointed as interim chief after ex-chief John Diaz stepped down last year in the wake of a DOJ consent decree settling the justice department's claims of excessive use of force and racially biased policing by SPD) had nothing to do with Pugel's performance. Rather, Murray said, he didn't want to discourage candidates from outside SPD from applying for the job of police chief by creating the impression that Pugel, who plans to apply for the job, had the inside track. Demoting Pugel to assistant chief (his former position) levels the playing field, Murray said. Bailey is not applyint for the position.
"I am looking for somebody, first of all, who knows how to reform a police department and the culture of a police department," Murray said. "And secondly, I am looking for someone who can restore the morale" of officers at SPD.
Murray also announced that he's creating a "bifurcated" search process, consisting of two groups—a "community advisory committee" that will seek input from the public, and a separate committee that will, with the help of a private firm, conduct a national search for a new chief using feedback from the community advisory group. Jayapal and Sims will chair both committees.
Asked how well the city has complied with the terms of the consent decree so far, Murray responded bluntly: "Not well. If you look at the latest report from the [federal] monitor ... it was not a good report. It showed marginal movement, and to me that’s unacceptable." Murray said he'd spoken personally to President Obama and his senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who agreed to "arrange meetings with various officials in the DOJ."
City attorney Pete Holmes—who clashed publicly with former mayor Mike McGinn when McGinn accused Holmes of failing to represent him and SPD in the DOJ lawsuit against the police department—was also at Murray's side at today's announcement.
In rather pointed words, City Attorney Holmes said, "For the first time in five years, a mayor was in my office and I was in his office yesterday, and that is a sign of the collaboration I’d like to carry forward." He added: "And I would like to say that even though I have spoken with the mayor and Chief Bailey in the last 24 hours, I have not spoken to the media"—an apparent reference to McGinn's decision to take his spat with Holmes public by making accusations in the press last year.
Finally, Murray refused to comment on rumors that assistant police chiefs Clark Kimerer and Mike Sanford would be demoted to the rank of captain. Last year, Pugel demoted longtime assistant chief Nick Metz in the wake of reports that the DOJ-ordered police reforms were not going well.