Three weeks into his new job, Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey has made changes that might normally occur over three years.
Operating with a mandate from new Mayor Ed Murray to accelerate the pace of reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing, Bailey has quickly assembled his own command staff while helping usher some of the old guard out the door.
Bailey won’t talk about the reasons behind the departures, calling them personnel moves.
But in an interview Wednesday with The Seattle Times, Bailey said he and his staff have been working 12 to 14 hours a day developing a “road map” for the future and “resetting” the Police Department before a permanent chief is hired.
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“It benefits me when I leave here as a citizen to make sure that we have a police department that is responsive to the community, that we’re giving the best services that we can to the community,” said Bailey, who came out of retirement as a Seattle police assistant chief to help Murray.
Bailey outlined his plans in advance of a key meeting next week with U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Jocelyn Samuels, the Department of Justice’s acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, to identify reform goals for the coming year.
The meeting, which will be attended by Murray, elected and police officials and Merrick Bobb, the court-appointed monitor overseeing federally mandated reforms set down in a consent decree between the city and Justice Department, also will include discussion of changes in the Police Department.
“The next several months are critical to the reform process, and the commitments by all parts of city government are essential for success,” Durkan said in a statement Wednesday.
As part of the changes, Bailey revealed Wednesday he has reinstated Capt. Nick Metz to the rank of assistant chief, a stunning move only two months after Metz was demoted by then-interim Chief Jim Pugel.
For Pugel, who returned to rank of assistant chief when Bailey was named interim chief, it was a stark rebuke, coming at a time when, according to a source tracking the changes, Pugel has been given the choice of retiring or taking a demotion to his civil-service rank of captain.
If he retires, Pugel will join two other assistant chief, Clark Kimerer and Mike Sanford in making recent exit plans. If he opts to drop a rank, he will join former assistant chief Dick Reed in taking a demotion to captain.
Only weeks ago, Murray, in replacing Pugel, said Pugel was welcome to apply for the permanent police-chief position, saying it was Pugel’s interest in the job — not his performance — that presented a conflict as interim chief.
Bailey, who has pledged not to seek the permanent job, didn’t spell out his reasons for overturning Pugel and restoring Metz to his old rank.
“I thought he was the best person for the job,” Bailey said of his decision to appoint Metz to head a bureau overseeing the 911 call center, information technology, human resources and crime analysis.
His demotion as the highest ranking African American drew criticism from some in the minority community, who suggested he was being made a scapegoat after Bobb, the federal monitor, issued a report that cited resistance to reform among some in the top ranks whom he didn’t name.
Pugel’s action also was poorly received by the rank and file, according to the source.
Bailey on Wednesday also announced another major change — the appointment of Capt. Chris Fowler to commander of the West Precinct, overseeing policing of downtown crime problems that have become a hot-button issue.
Fowler, who became a rising star after his deft handling of last year’s May Day disturbances, replaces Capt. Jim Dermody, who had clashed with City Attorney Pete Holmes over his attempt to blame Holmes’ office for crime problems.
It wasn’t disclosed where Dermody is moving.
On reforms, Bailey said the department’s new Compliance and Professional Standards Bureau was fully ready to tackle the requirements of the consent decree with the Justice Department.
Headed by newly promoted Assistant Chief Tag Gleason, the bureau will augment work already under way by the previous Professional Standards Bureau that Sanford oversaw.
Gleason said the bureau will seek to work in collaboration with federal attorneys and Bobb.
The goal, he said, is to have a “continuing discussion” to achieve lasting change, not just check boxes.
“We want a culture that is committed to the changes,” Gleason said.
Officers need to know how “theoretical” policies translate into what they face in an “alley in the middle of the night,” Gleason said.
Reforms need to be seen as a “seed that is being planted,” rather than changes that are being compelled, he said.
Training and education will play a big part in implementing new policies on use of force, biased policing and temporary stops of citizens, Gleason said.
U.S. Attorney Durkan, in her statement, praised Murray’s leadership in “making structural changes to ensure compliance and reform efforts are unified and come from the top.”
Durkan said she and federal officials have met with Bailey and believe he is “strongly committed to constitutional and effective policing.”
Bailey and Murray have made public safety and reform top priorities, Durkan said.
“They understand both the challenges police officers face, and that those officers must have public trust to succeed,” she said.
“Done right, the new chief of police will have the necessary framework to lead the Seattle Police Department to be the national model for urban policing,” Durkan added.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @stevemiletich
Seattle Times staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.