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MAYOR Ed Murray’s appointment of Harry C. Bailey as the new interim chief of the Seattle Police Department is an inspired choice to move department reforms ahead.

Bailey is a well-regarded department veteran, and the mayor’s announcement was well received at all levels of the agency.

Murray’s replacement of Jim Pugel as interim chief was an emphatic declaration that a fresh start is needed for a department working its way out of intense U.S. Department of Justice scrutiny and criticism.

The mayor’s respectful but blunt letter to the police department is a powerful message to the rank and file, command staff, the interim chief and the community leaders assembled to search for a new chief.

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“Community policing must be the department’s operating philosophy, not merely a series of special projects,” the mayor wrote. “True community policing is about building relationships with the people the department serves and developing solutions to the problems they face.”

Murray also touched on a key point raised by the outside monitor overseeing the department’s response to federal imperatives and negotiated reforms: “Our Seattle Police Department ought to base its strategies on data and best practices, not merely tradition and instinct.”

The mayor’s letter is a template for how to proceed for both interim Chief Bailey, the 32-member citizens’ community panel convened by Murray, and the 12-member search committee.

Bailey knows the department and the city, and he can do the next chief a favor by refreshing the senior ranks of the command staff with those prepared to meet the mayor’s expectations.

Likewise, the community panel and search committee, co-chaired by Ron Sims and Pramila Jayapal, have a filter through which to screen applicants who want to lead the police department.

The breadth of skills, talents, leadership experience and community connections represented by those who answered the mayor’s call to help is a measure of the confidence invested in Murray’s commitment.

Mayor Murray is off to a swift start with a well-articulated, well-supported effort to fill a key post for his administration and the city.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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