SEATTLE — A pre-emptive strike against potential bad press by the Seattle Police Department.
It involves a video but it’s not what you might think.
It is a music video made more than two and a half decades ago in which interim police chief Jim Pugel and a handful of other officers are seen mocking the homeless.
Pugel says it was his decision to come forward with the video.
He says after he was tapped to become interim chief he was asked if there was anything out there that would embarrass the department or the profession and he said yes, putting into motion a sequence of events that would make the video public for the first time since 1986.
It was an attempt at humor to be viewed at the end of a roll call video training presentation more than 26 years ago.
Interim Chief Jim Pugel is seen in a tan v-sweater and fake beard.
“The attempt at humor clearly was wrong and again I’m deeply sorry for it but I own it,” interim SPD Chief Jim Pugel.
Pugel was a 26 year old officer, on the job for about 4 years.
“I certainly could have said no, but I didn’t. It was immature. Clearly it wasn’t a good idea,” Pugel said.
Pugel says when, then, police Chief Patrick Fitzsimon got wind of the video he called everyone involved into his office chewed them out and ordered all copies of the video destroyed.
Clearly that didn’t happen.
“I apologize to all those people I serve, to those I work with on a daily basis in the community and I just ask their forgiveness,” Pugel said.
To view the video, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=odp-SM_mMI0#at=181
Pugel is a longtime supporter of Seattle’s homeless community.
He says many of them have seen the video or know about it already and he says he talked with chief Diaz and mayor McGinn and the department’s independent monitor.
The video has clearly weighed heavy on him and he seems to feel some guilt over his participation.
He decided to go public because he doesn’t want anything else to hurt the department, especially during what is a challenging time already.
“I don’t want to be the cause or the issue that prevents us from moving forward so that’s why I brought it forward. I promised the media, I promised my officers, I promised the command staff that I would be open and honest and approach things head on,” Pugel said.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn released a statement late this evening about the video saying: Chief Pugel brought the video to our attention when the mayor asked him to serve as acting chief.
Chief Pugel made the right call to share the video and to apologize.