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Murray Appoints Veteran Bailey As SPD's New Interim Chief

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has appointed retired assistant police chief Harry Bailey as the new interim chief for the Seattle Police Department.

Murray said Bailey, a 35-year veteran of the force who retired in 2007, will help implement the court-ordered consent decree while the hiring process for a permanent chief moves forward.

The two processes are currently on a collision course, Murray said, which he hoped to rectify by appointing Bailey, who has no interest in the permanent position. Separating the two issues, the mayor said, would make for a cleaner process and ease political complications. 

"Let me be clear: I am not willing to wait for the hiring of a permanent chief to move forward on the consent decree,” Murray said.

Bailey replaces Jim Pugel, who has been serving as interim chief since John Diaz vacated the office last year. Pugel will return to his former post as assistant chief. 

“This is no reflection on Jim Pugel and his work. I also thank him immensely for his dedicated service,” said the mayor, adding Pugel is welcome to apply for the permanent position.

New Interim Chief

Bailey said his first order of business will be to establish a compliance and reform bureau that will aim to align the department with the consent decree. The court order resulted from the Department of Justice’s finding of excessive use of force by Seattle police.

“Reform is the top thing on my agenda for this time,” said Bailey. “Building the confidence of the community is another one.”

Seattle Police Officers Guild President Rich O’Neill said Bailey is well-respected by the rank and file.

“It’s a very difficult job when you wear that label of interim or acting chief. Everyone kind of looks at you like, ‘Are you the boss?’ There will be no doubt that Harry is the boss. That’s just his personality," O'Neill said.

“Some say Harry’s a little old-school, and that’s kind of what we need right now — a strong chief who everyone knows isn’t putting his hat in the ring for the real job, so the decisions he makes are going to be in the best interest of the police department," he added.

Hiring the New Chief

Murray said he hopes to have a permanent chief in place by April.

“I believe this is the single most important decision I will make as mayor,” he said.

A 12-person search committee, the members of which have not yet been determined, will oversee a nationwide search. 

In addition, “the community will play a huge role," the mayor said.

Murray appointed former King County Executive Ron Sims and community activist Pramila Jayapal to oversee the gathering of public input.

“We want to understand what the people of Seattle are looking for in their new chief,” he said.

When asked what he is looking for in a police chief, Murray said he wants someone who can “reform and change the culture” on the force and “restore the respect of the community.”