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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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.

SEATTLE — When the Department of Justice came down hard on the Seattle Police Department, it cited as one problem the internal investigations process.

The DOJ said the way that the SPD polices its own police officers needs to change.

opaThe biggest thing that’s changed is there is a new man in charge.

Pierce Murphy is now heading up investigations of officer misconduct in the SPD, a position he’s held for a few months.  It’s his job to take complaints from the community – everything from general rudeness to excessive force – and determine whether they are justified and what the punishment should be.

“The only way I can fail is if I’m concerned about what other people are going to think of me,” said Murphy.

Murphy vows to bring much more independence and transparency to the process, and is actually encouraging citizens to come forward if they have any bad interactions with officers.

“Nobody likes to hear negative things, but it’s the only way you improve,” he said.  “If all you hear is people patting you on the back and saying you’re doing a good job, you’re missing a lot.”

One clear way that Murphy is working to restore trust in the complaint process is to very publicly move his office out of SPD headquarters.

“I’m not a police officer and I’m not here representing the police department,” Murphy said.  “I’m here representing the community that has a legitimate need to hold the police accountable and provide them with the support they need when they are.”

Whenever a misconduct complaint against an officer is filed, Murphy reviews the allegation and decides whether a full investigation is warranted.  If so, his Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) interviews all witnesses, including the officer or officers involved, and comes to a conclusion, with a punishment if warranted.

But Murphy admits that even with a more transparent system there will always be incidents on the street that people aren’t happy with.

“Let’s face it, policing sometimes is a messy business,” Murphy said, “even if officers are doing everything right and using all the skills and tools at their command in the right way.  Sometimes, bad things happen, and sometimes it’s messy and people sometimes unfortunately get hurt.”

In the past, some community groups have argued that the OPA was too soft when it came to officer discipline.  Murphy says he will work hard to change that impression, including writing a full, public report to accompany each case his office handles.

“Every day I have to remind myself, I’m not here to please somebody, I’m not here to be popular,” Murphy said.  “I have to ask myself, am I really basing this on the facts or am I basing it on a bias of some sort, either  towards the complainant or towards the officer.”

Murphy agrees, people will have to trust him.

“Absolutely, that’s true,” he said.  “It boils down to trust.”

SEATTLE — Seattle Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz said Wednesday he had been “informed” that he will no longer be an assistant chief, and that he has agreed to remain on at the Seattle Police Department as a captain.

metzIt was the second demotion of an assistant police chief this week and comes two weeks after a federal monitor’s report that criticized the SPD’s implementation of reforms demanded by the Justice Department. Earlier this week, Assistant Chief Dick Reed had taken a voluntary demotion to captain.

The moves also come as Mayor-elect Ed Murray, who wants to pick a police chief, prepares to take office in January.

The Seattle Times, citing sources, reported that interim Police Chief Jim Pugel gave Metz an ultimatum: Take an assignment to captain or accept a severance package.

In a letter to his colleagues Wednesday, Metz wrote, in part:  “It has been decided that there will be a change in the face and structure of leadership at the Seattle Police Department.  I have been recently informed that, effective December 2nd, I will not be part of that team.

“Over the last 10+ years, as a member of the senior command staff, it has been my honor to serve this great city and its incredible people.  Through the years there have been many public safety changes and challenges.

“No matter what the change or challenge, the women and men of the Seattle Police Department (both sworn and civilian) have always stepped up, ready to serve our great city.  Remembering how our incredible women and men responded to such incidents like Cafe Racer, May Day 2013, the manhunt to find the killer of Officer Timothy Brenton, the Jewish Federation Shooting, and the thousands of incidents every year should make us all feel very proud.

“Though no longer a member of the senior leadership command, I will resume my leadership role as a Captain.

“I will continue to serve this City with the same level of care and professionalism that I promised when I took my oath over thirty years ago. “

In an internal SPD email issued Wednesday, Pugel said he had planned to announce the staff decisions next Monday, but “owing to rumors and disclosures that did not originate from my office” he decided to go ahead and announce them late Wednesday.

“I have asked Assistant Chief Nick Metz to return to his civil service rank of Captain,” the Pugel email said. “This is the permanent civil service rank that all Assistant Chiefs and – in my case – the Chief of Police hold. I thank Nick for his contributions in the role he held as Assistant Chief, and look forward to his continued efforts in the critical assignment of Captain.

“I am also announcing my decision to promote Captain Carmen Best to the rank of Assistant Chief. She will command the Investigations Bureau. For those of you who have had the pleasure of working with her, you will know Carmen for her decisive leadership, efficiency as an administrator and tireless work ethic.

“And, finally, I want to announce the assignment of Captain John Hayes to command the South Precinct. John is highly regarded as a leader in our department and has the privilege of having close ties to the precinct that he serves.

“I have given extensive consideration to these decisions over the last weeks and months, and have been guided in my commitment to the four pillars of our mission: Justice, Excellence, Humility and Harm Reduction. I believe these decisions will help us to further our progress towards these important goals and I thank all of you for your dedication and service.”

Local News

SPD assistant chief agrees to demotion


Interim Chief of Police Jim Pugel (Left), and former assistant chief Dick Reed

SEATTLE — One of Seattle’s highest ranking police officers recently agreed to a voluntary demotion in the face of continued criticism of SPD’s data collection work.

According to the Seattle Times, Assistant Chief Dick Reed has taken a voluntary demotion to captain. The voluntary demotion comes two weeks after federal monitors underseeing mandatory reforms of the embattled police department critiqued the department’s data collection work that suggested the department’s inability to collect reliable data. The report called the department’s ability to track and analyze data “at best,weak.”

Reed will be replaced by Capt. Mike Washburn, who has been with the department since 1986.

The move was suggested by Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel, the Times reported, indicating that Pugel could make further department changes before Mayor-elect Ed Murray takes office in January.

Reed was the head of the Field Support Bureu, whose duties included supervising information technology and predicting where crime could occur.

The Times reported police chiefs rarely — if ever — take a demotion to captain.

Local News

Federal court-appointed monitor critical of SPD reforms

SEATTLE — The federal monitor overseeing Seattle Police  reforms has some harsh words for SPD’s ability to change the culture inside police ranks.

A settlement agreement was reached between the Department of Justice and Seattle last year, after a federal report found Seattle police engaged in a pattern of  unnecessary force.


Monitor Merrick Bobb

Merrick Bobb, who is monitoring the reforms, reports “significant  disappointment and frustration across several areas.” One of those areas is officer-involved shootings. Bobb said, “The processes do not guarantee anything close to a thorough, fair  and impartial investigation.”

Bobb is also critical of the in-car cameras that officers are supposed to use, saying video and audio are often missing from police incidents.

“That tells me we still have a long way to go,” said Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

Acting Police Chief Jim Pugel said it took a while for the department to get to where it is and, “I don’t expect it to get fixed overnight.”

Pugel also said he is diligent at looking at areas where SPD can improve and is working hard with the monitoring team to get there.

“I believe we’re heading in the right direction,” Pugel said.

SPD does have 30 days to respond to this recent report card before the final version is presented to a federal judge.

The city has 30 days to comment on the draft before it is presented to a federal judge.