by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Since taking office earlier this month, Mayor Ed Murray has been busy. In addition to typical housekeeping within his office’s staff, and meeting with his legislative delegation to Olympia for the first time, Mayor Murray has already set two major projects in motion: his executive order to plan and implement a $15 minimum wage for non-contractor city employees, and his major restructuring of the Seattle Police Department. This month, the early stages of the search for a new, permanent Chief of Police will commence in earnest.
The leadership of the SPD shuffled much of the past year, beginning with the departure of former chief John Diaz in April of 2013. Mayor McGinn named Assistant Chief Jim Pugel the interim chief, and Pugel maintained that post until last week when Mayor Murray appointed retired SPD officer Harry C. Bailey to the position.
Now, Pugel will return to the position of Assistant Chief, and hasn’t indicated whether he plans to abandon his bid for the permanent Chief of Police role. Late in 2013, Pugel also demoted two assistant chiefs, Dick Reed and Nick Metz, after an unfavorable department report by federal monitor Merrick Bobb.
As Mayor Murray appointed Bailey to the temporary head of the department, he delivered a letter to every member of the SPD, which outlined his philosophy of law enforcement and inter-departmental cooperation. In this letter, he said, “The department is currently working to comply with the Settlement Agreement. But none of us should be satisfied with merely ‘good enough’ in meeting the terms of the agreement,” referring to the Department of Justice consent decree and subsequent settlement, adding, “The best practices and community relationships we develop must be sustained long after the Monitor has left.”
Bailey was an officer in the Seattle Police Department for 35 years, transitioning from a career in private security in 1972 and retiring in 2007, though he acted as a consultant for the SPD after the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree began to influence police policy in 2011. In his time with the SPD, Bailey oversaw three of the city’s five precincts, helped develop the department’s budget, and received recognition from the NAACP and the Department of Justice.
In addition to changes in the department’s top positions, the East Precinct (which covers much our own neighborhood) also has a new leader. 37-year veteran Captain Ron Wilson announced his retirement towards the end of 2013, after serving as the director of the East Precinct for several years. His replacement, Captain Mike Edwards, has served in the SPD since 1980, and has been a leader in the department’s training programs most recently. Captain Edwards received positive recognition from the end-of-year federal monitor report for his performance in that role. Already, he is emphasizing more foot patrols in Capitol Hill in a response to feedback from last year’s community police outreach events.
Going forward, Mayor Murray has enacted a fast track program to name a permanent Chief of Police. He has already appointed all members of the Community Advisory Committee and the Search Committee, who will work in tandem to identify qualities and eventually candidates for the role. According to the process documents released by the Mayor’s Office, the Community Advisory Committee will be doing the lion’s share of the early work, beginning with a series of public outreach events and a period of online feedback to find out what people all around Seattle want in SPD leadership. The East Precinct outreach event will be at the Garfield Community Center on the evening of Wednesday, January 29.
While the Community Advisory Committee publishes the results of its outreach period, it will also submit a report to the Search Committee. The Search Committee will then use the report to influence its review of applicants for the role of Chief of Police. The Search Committee will screen and interview candidates, narrowing down the list to three individuals. Mayor Murray will appoint the new chief from among these final three. He is expected to make his decision by April of 2014.
When The Capitol Hill Times spoke with Ed Murray at the beginning of his campaign for mayor in 2013, he indicated that he was interested in looking outside of Seattle to find the new Chief of Police. Indeed, the Search Committee will turn its attention to a national call for resumes, and Mayor Murray has already met with leaders from other police departments in cities like Sacramento, California, to consult with them about their own approach to law enforcement.
For more information, the SPD website dedicated a section to the search for a new chief. It has a full schedule of community outreach events, background materials and contact information, and includes updates from the Community Police Commission, the new, ongoing community feedback structure.