The former Seattle police chief is arguably best-known non-incumbent to announce a 2019 council bid so far.
A former interim Seattle police chief will mount a run to represent downtown, Queen Anne and Magnolia on the City Council.
Jim Pugel arguably is the best-known non-incumbent to announce a council bid thus far, with all seven district seats up for grabs this year.
The 59-year-old Queen Anne resident will seek the District 7 seat that Councilmember Sally Bagshaw will vacate at the end of 2019.
Six other candidates already have registered District 7 campaigns, including Andrew Lewis, an assistant city attorney; Michael George, a housing and transportation real-estate manager; and Naveed Jamali, a U.S. Navy Reserve intelligence officer.
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More than two dozen candidates are running across the seven districts, with months still to go before a May filing deadline.
Pugel joined the police department in 1981 and left in 2014 after newly elected Mayor Ed Murray gave the interim chief job to someone else. He will announce his bid Tuesday in Pioneer Square, his campaign said.
The 59-year-old will be joined at the launch by supporters Lisa Daugaard, a justice reform advocate; Daniel Malone, director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center; and Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, among others, according to the campaign.
In a phone interview, Pugel said he spent the better part of last year recovering from cancer and now has “most of my strength back.” He said he decided to run after Bagshaw said she wouldn’t seek re-election.
“I love helping other people solve problems,” Pugel said. “You don’t have to sit at the head of the table but you’ve got to be at the table in order to make change.”
Regarding the short-lived employee head tax on high-grossing businesses that stirred controversy at City Hall in 2018, Pugel said his impression is that “the plan wasn’t as detailed as it needed to be.”
“Various groups were demonizing others and a civil conversation couldn’t occur,” he added. “I want to bring a sense of procedural justice … to come up with a workable result.”
Born and raised in Seattle, Pugel graduated from the University of Washington and started as a reserve officer, was hired as a full-time officer in 1983 and was promoted to sergeant seven years later.
He held various positions before being promoted to West Precinct captain shortly before the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting that erupted in chaos. Pugel became an assistant chief in 2000 and was appointed interim chief by then-Mayor Mike McGinn in 2013, as McGinn’s administration wrestled with a federal consent degree requiring the police department to curb its excessive use of force.
At the time, Pugel apologized for his role in a 1986 department-sponsored video that mocked homeless people living underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct, saying he regretted the episode from near the beginning of his career.
He was an early supporter of a program diverting low-level drug offenders from jail to social services and as interim chief struck a cooperative stance on reforms. A stinging report by the consent decree’s court-appointed monitor subsequently led Pugel to partly shake up his command staff.
Under Murray, Pugel was replaced as interim chief and given the choice of being demoted to captain or retiring. He chose to leave, later serving in the King County Sheriff’s Office as its chief deputy.
The candidate said running as a former cop could “could help and could hurt” in a city where many voters are concerned about police abuses.
“Some people see the word ‘police officer’ and don’t like police officers. But if you look at my record …. you’ll see a person who likes to solve problems in a respectful way, with everyone at the table,” he said. “We don’t have to put everyone in jail.”
Pugel most recently was in the public eye this past November, when he appeared in a TV alongside the sister of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old African-American mother of four who was fatally shot by two white police officers at her Magnuson Park home in 2017.
The would-be council member said he encountered some “blowback” from current and retired police officers for his part in the ad supporting state Initiative 940, a landmark police-training and accountability ballot measure that Washington voters approved.