Story Summary

Seattle Police Dept. agrees to reforms after DOJ forces issue

In the wake of high-profile incidents of alleged police brutality, the Department of Justice announced March 31, 2011, it was launching a formal civil rights investigation into SPD practices.  It later found the department had engaged in excessive use of force and ordered changes.  Under a court-approved consent agreement with the DOJ, the police department agreed to implement reforms.

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baileySEATTLE — Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey announced a bevy of organizational changes Wednesday, including appointing a new assistant chief.

Bailey, appointed earlier this month as the new interim police chief by mayor Ed Murray, announced former captain Nick Metz would take over again as the department’s assistant chief. Metz previously served as assistant chief, but was demoted by previous interim chief Jim Pugel.

Bailey also announced the reorganization of the Professional Standards Bureau; which will now be known as the Compliance and Professional Standards Bureau, and tasked with keeping tabs on the department’s progress toward federally mandated reforms. The Special Operations Bureau has been divided into two separate bureaus, named special operations and homeland security.

In addition, Bailey made the following assignments to his command staff:

Assistant Chief Michael Washburn              Chief of Staff

Assistant Chief Tag Gleason                          Compliance and Professional Standards Bureau

Assistant Chief Robin Clark                          Special Operations Bureau

Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh                   Homeland Security Bureau

Assistant Chief Joe Kessler                            Patrol Operations Bureau

Assistant Chief Carmen Best                         Criminal Investigations Bureau

Assistant Chief Nick Metz                             Field Support Bureau

He also assigned the following captains as precinct commanders:

Captain Chris Fowler                             West Precinct Commander

Captain Steve Wilske                             Southwest Precinct Commander

Captain Pierre Davis                              East Precinct Commander

Captain John Hayes                               South Precinct Commander

Captain Dave Emerick                           North Precinct

This story will be updated following a 2 p.m. news conference.

SEATTLE — Assistant Seattle Police Chief Clark Kimerer announced Tuesday he is going to retire from the police department, effective June 30.

“My last day on the job will be hard on the heels of my 59th birthday, and I will have completed 31 years of service in the Seattle Police Department,” Kimerer said.


(Photo: Liam Moriarty /

“I want to thank Chief Harry Bailey for taking the mantle of what must be the most difficult job ever conceived of, and – like all the chiefs I have worked for – he has my loyalty and support.  Chief Bailey has asked me to focus between now and my retirement upon several projects critical to the future of SPD, including the Department’s 2014-15 budgets, and other priorities he identifies as we prepare the Department for the transition to a new Chief of Police.

“I look forward to continuing to contribute to the Department, and to protect and serve the citizens of Seattle.  This devotion is based upon the simple truth that my heart abides in the role I started with 31 years ago:  In a third watch patrol car in George Sector, listening closely for the next call,” Kimerer said.

Bailey said, “I want to be one of the first to say that Assistant Chief Kimerer has served this Department and the people of Seattle with distinction, and his career is marked by contributions to public safety in Seattle which will last far beyond his years on the job … I want to thank Assistant Chief Kimerer for his years of distinguished service, and look forward to working with him over the next 5 months leading up to his well-deserved retirement.”


SEATTLE — The one thing you should know about Seattle’s new interim Police Chief Harry Bailey is that he’s a man of faith, both in the way his life and in his team.

SPD interim chiefBailey, who has a giant 12th man flag in the window of his office at 5th and Cherry streets downtown, predicts at 24-7 Hawks win.

“They better win the Super Bowl or I am going to come looking for Russell Wilson and the guys,” Bailey said jokingly.

The department has been preparing to handle security at the NFC Championship game for weeks.

“We’ve got a plan in place and we’ve been working on it for quite a while,” he said. “We have a plan in place and we are gonna makes sure everybody is safe in this city.”

SPD has several command vehicles stationed outside CenturyLink Field as well as the bomb squad and extra officers, including those wearing plain-clothes.  It’s the most high-profile public event for Seattle since Mayor Ed Murray named him Chief.

Bailey spent 35 years with the department and retired in 2007 so does he want the job permanently.

“Absolutely not. I think I’m in the catbird seat,” Bailey said. “I do know the mayor is looking for a permanent chief and I know that when that’s done, whoever he or she may be that they will have a police department that they will continue to move reform forward, make those connections back with the community and be able to carry this department forward. That’s my goal.”

He feels that department always had strong relationships with the community, but in recent years saw that begin to fade.

“I saw that begin to slip a little bit and so community policing was not in the forefront, at least in my opinion, and so that led me to believe that we were going to be in trouble here pretty quickly.”

Over the next several months, he says you can expect him to push reform.  Two visible changes will be on the street.  Patrol officers have been ordered to wear  their caps when not in the car and they are getting new Ford Interceptor vehicles to replace the current Crown Victoria.

The new vehicles get better gas mileage saving the city money.  They’re also painted a different color blue.  When I asked him why, Bailey replied lightheartedly, “In honor of the Seahawks and then went on to add  more seriously, “This is Seattle we wanted to make sure that most people are going with the black and white and we wanted to be unique to Seattle. Seattle’s a unique city and we wanted our cars to reflect that.”

SEATTLE — A federal judge on Friday approved new Seattle Police Department policies on “stops and detentions” and “bias-free policing” that were created by the city in conjunction with the U.S. Justice Department.

spdU.S. District Judge James L. Robart signed off on the document.

The Justice Department’s investigation of the Seattle Police Department in 2011 found that SPD officers often exhibited confusion between a casual, social contact (where a person is free to leave) and an investigative detention short of an arrest, also known as a Terry stop (where a person is not free to leave).

“Some data and community input suggested that this confusion – as well as other problems with training and oversight – led to inappropriate pedestrian encounters that may have resulted in a disproportionate number of people of color – in particular youths – being stopped where no offense or other police incident occurred,” a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle said.  Incidents of overt discrimination and the fact that excessive force disproportionately occurred against minorities also gave the department concern and led to the inclusion of these issues in the (SPD use-of-force)  settlement agreement.”

The new “Stops and Detentions policy,” among other things, makes clear that a Terry stop occurs any time an officer has restrained the liberty of a citizen; must be based on reasonable suspicion; must be reasonable in scope and duration and has certain limits imposed by law; and must be documented with clearly articulated and objective facts, the news release said. It said there were also be improved oversight by requiring supervisors to review the documentation of Terry stops before the end of their shift.

The new “Bias-Free Policing policy” will give officers clear direction by identifying expressly prohibited acts and reporting obligations when an officer observes a prohibited act, and improving oversight by requiring a supervisor to go to the scene of any complaint of bias-based policing to investigate, analyze and document such encounters.

The new policies will go into effect on Jan. 31.  “Officer training is currently being developed in consultation with the CPC (Community Police Commission) and will be implemented by the end of summer 2014,” the news release said.

“These new policies will set the national standard and are a huge step forward,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “They give police the certainty they need while addressing some of the most consistent and damaging concerns raised by community members.  We want proactive policing; yet negative street encounters and any real or perceived bias can significantly undermine the trust necessary for effective policing in every corner of our community.”

Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey said, “This is another major milestone as we move forward in our reform efforts. The new policies, when coupled with proper training and supervision, will ensure that our police department will be able to deliver the quality police services that our residents deserve and expect.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray added, ““The perception of racial bias in policing doesn’t just corrode the community’s trust in the police force, it erodes the morale of our officers. Addressing this very real issue is among the most serious and urgent reforms the Police Department must undertake in the consent decree process.”

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray named former Seattle Police Department official Harry Bailey as the city’s new interim police chief.

Bailey is coming out of retirement to assume the position.  He will replace Jim Pugel, who has served as interim chief since April and will return to the rank of assistant chief.

bailey“I’ve chosen somebody who will be a strong arm to guide this police force through a very, very difficult transition period,” Murray said.

The mayor said that this big change is necessary because Pugel is a candidate for the permanent position, a situation Murray described as “politically complicated,” especially since the SPD is under a federal mandate to reform.  “To have an interim that’s also applying for that position, making incredibly controversial decisions, I believe would damage the process of the consent decree,” Murray said.  “This is a cleaner process.”

The yayor guarantees that Bailey won’t be just a placeholder.  The 35-year veteran of the department, who left in 2007, will be expected to meet aggressive reform benchmarks laid out by the Department of Justice.  “I’ve chosen somebody who is not going to apply to be chief of police here or anywhere else, who has the respect of this community, to make those difficult decisions,” Murray said.

The city’s newest police chief was greeted by a number of current officers, all happy to see a friendly face returning to the force.

“It’s all about moving reform forward, and that’s what I’m intending to do,” Bailey said.  “We need to make a very strong statement that we’re serious about this and that we are going to go forward with it.”

Seattle’s police union was it was pleased with the choice.

“I think this is an excellent decision by the mayor,” said Rich O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. “Harry is very popular.”

Today Murray also unveiled a Community Advisory Group that will conduct public meetings and solicit imput from groups and neighborhoods and about they want in a new police chief.  Murray says he wants a permanent leader in place by April.

SEATTLE — Mayor Ed Murray will replace interim Police Chief Jim Pugel with former Assistant Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey, a source confirmed Tuesday.


Former Assistant Police Chief Harry Bailey just before his retirement in 2007. (Photo by Mike Kane/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

An official announcement is expected later this week.

According to the Seattle Times, which first reported the news, Murray will also announce the formation of a search committee to find a permanent police chief within three to four months.

Bailey, who retired from the Seattle Police Department in 2007, most recently worked as a consultant for former Mayor Mike McGinn when the city and the U.S. Justice Department were negotiating a compromise on Seattle police reforms.

Pugel was named as interim police chief in April to replace retiring Police Chief John Diaz.



SEATTLE — A major milestone has been reached between the Seattle Police Department and the Department of Justice about police reform.  The two sides have agreed on a new use-of-force policy, and a federal judge gave his approval Tuesday to the strict limits on officer behavior.

SPD“This is a really significant step forward in reform efforts,” said U.S Attorney Jenny Durkan, who represents the DOJ in the federal consent decree.

Since the recent problems at the SPD, and the reason the federal government is here at all mandating reform, is because of the issue of excessive force, revising those policies has been a big priority of the DOJ.  “It’s about rebuilding trust,” said Durkan.  “It will give [officers] more clarity in their job, and we hope help restore trust between they and the community.”

Here are some of the highlights of the new use of force policies:

  • For the first time there will be an emphasis and expectation of de-escalation, including cop warnings wherever possible.
  • All uses of force will be required to be reported and documented, something that isn’t happening now in every instance.
  • All officers will be given at least one non-gun weapon, be that a taser, a baton, ever pepper spray, to be used when appropriate and under new guidelines.

Durkan notes that the new weapons will also come with clear rules.  “We will have for the first time weapons specific policies,” she said.  “There will be a policy on how and when to use pepper spray, for example, how and when to use the taser.  And so every officer will have least-lethal alternative than their gun and they will be trained on how to use it.”

The ACLU was of the key groups that got this whole ball rolling by convincing the DOJ to step in and mandate reforms.  Today the civil rights group applauded the new court-approved use-of-force polices, especially the new, stricter reporting requirement.  “If there’s no injury it wasn’t considered reportable force,” said Jennifer Shaw, ACLU Deputy Director.  “There was also this assumption that wasn’t really force.  So now everybody has that same understanding.”

But the ACLU did sound a note of caution today that much more needs to be done to restore the community trust that has been lost at the SPD.  “There won’t be instantaneous change because this is a long process,” said Shaw.  “The policy is the first step. The next step is training.”

Another milestone in the reform effort will be to establish new policies for now to prevent racially biased policing.  Those will be coming out after the first of the year.

SEATTLE — A U.S. District Court judge accepted a new use-of-force policy between the Department of Justice and Seattle police in an effort to bring court-mandated reforms to the department.

The new use-of-force policy changes the way officers use and report force, according to the DOJ.

spd3The new regulations were submitted to U.S. District Judge James L. Robart. The 70-page policy requires all but minimal force be reported, and replaces the previous 5-page policy currently in place at the SPD.

The new policy requires that officers be armed with one less-than-lethal tools and the building of a new Force Investigation Team, to be implemented whenever officers use force. The DOJ found that SPD officers were too quick to use force and used too much when they did.

DOJ officials called the new force policies further proof that the SPD is trying to improve the ways of a previously beleaguered and belligerent department.

“This policy will help ensure that the people of Seattle have a police department that respects the Constitution, secures the safety of the public and earns the confidence of the community,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels.

The new policy will receive input from the Community Police Commission before it is slated to go into effect.

SEATTLE — As Seattle searches for a new police chief, some city lawmakers argue it’s time to clean house and change the way the Seattle Police  Department chooses its top brass.

“If we are serious as a city about changing the department and looking for new leadership, we’re not just talking about the chief of police,” said City Councilman Bruce Harrell, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee.  “We’re talking about command staff as well.”


Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell

City law currently states that a Seattle police chief can be an outsider –  but not his or her six assistant chiefs; they must come from the existing ranks of the SPD.  It’s a guarantee that the powerful command staff will be home-grown.

Harrell wants that restriction thrown out.  As Seattle works hard to reform a department that is under a federal consent decree, he argues, it should be looking not just for a new chief, but a new, outside command staff as well.

“We all know that change begins at the top,” Harrell said.  “These are changes at the top that we think are necessary.”

Harrell argues the new chief should have maximum flexibility to shake up a department that many argue has a culture problem.

“This legislation actually gives him or her the tools to clean house if that’s what they see needs to be done,” he said.

The rule change will also allow outside candidates for chief to bring trusted assistants from their current jobs, which should greatly help in recruiting.

“These are all attractive things, incentives if you will, to bring in a new chief,” Harrell said.  “So we can avoid the problem where we have a limited pool.  We want it wide open and we want to make sure this person is set up to succeed, not fail.”

But changing hiring rules is going to be a fight with the police union.

“I can’t imagine bringing in an outside chief and then bringing in several assistant chiefs,” said Rich O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.  “It’s like, who are we relying on to really connect with the community?”

O’Neill also says the rule change will be a big hit to morale.

“Officers that are aspiring to be commanders on this department would be told you’re not good enough,” he said.  “We have very bright and very sharp people who are waiting to step into those shoes, and if they are told, no, you can’t, we have to bring in an outsider, I just think that sends a real bad message to the rank and file.”

Harrell wants to put this legislation in place as soon as he can before the search for the new police chief starts in earnest in January when Mayor-elect Ed Murray takes office.