The departure last week of Assistant Police Chief Linda Pierce, the highest- ranking woman in the Seattle Police Department, was due in part to her concerns about the department's treatment of female officers, according to sources familiar with her decision.

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The departure last week of Assistant Police Chief Linda Pierce, the highest-ranking woman in the Seattle Police Department, was due in part to her concerns about the department’s treatment of female officers, according to sources familiar with her decision.

Pierce, a 28-year member of the department, retired Friday and has taken a job as public-safety director for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Eastern Washington, the department said in a written statement.

Pierce, 51, couldn’t be reached Monday. Her husband, Butch Pierce, reached by telephone Monday night, said she wouldn’t be available for comment and that she was going in a “different direction.”

But asked about concerns attributed to his wife, he said the department’s command staff should be “taken to task” for what she has endured during the past 10 to 15 years.

“What’s going on there is not good,” he said, declining to be specific.

He asserted interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is part of a “good old boy network” running the department and said the new mayor to be elected in November doesn’t know the problems he will face with the Police Department.

Diaz, through a spokesman, declined to comment Monday night.

Pierce’s departure didn’t surprise some in the department because she has owned a home in Eastern Washington for some time and her husband retired recently, according to sources.

But before leaving, she told people around her that she believed the department had mistreated female officers and failed to retain them in the higher ranks, according to three sources familiar with her decision.

The department now has no women in the assistant chief or captain ranks, although at least four women are serving as lieutenants.

Pierce expressed her hope that the problems would be addressed with the hiring of a new police chief, according to one source who described her as upset about the future for women in the department.

Department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said Monday that he wasn’t aware of Pierce raising issues about the treatment of female officers.

He said the department has worked to recruit and retain women. Whitcomb said four women, including Pierce, headed precincts in the city several years ago, serving as captains.

With the departure of Pierce, who was promoted to assistant chief in 2005, all four are now gone.

Whitcomb said Pierce had begun commuting from Eastern Washington and was a finalist for Spokane’s police chief job in 2006, making it “no surprise she sought an opportunity in Eastern Washington and was capable enough to land one.”

“Quite frankly, it’s our loss and their gain,” Whitcomb said, referring to the Colville tribes. In a statement, the department said, “Linda Pierce’s wisdom and integrity will be greatly missed. We are confident in her continued success as a leader in the field of law enforcement.”

Pierce has had difficult relations with some in the department, said one City Hall source familiar with the situation. The source questioned whether Pierce had been “isolated” in the department because of her management style or gender issues.

Another City Hall source said that whatever was behind Pierce’s displeasure, she had raised “legitimate issues” regarding women in command positions.

A representative of the Colville tribes couldn’t be reached for comment.

As an assistant chief, Pierce commanded the Special Operations Bureau, overseeing operations and planning, the arson and bomb units, homeland security, the Harbor Patrol and the operational-support and criminal-intelligence sections. She was one of four assistant chiefs.

Pierce, who has a law degree, filled many jobs during her years in the department. Before her promotion to assistant chief, she served as captain of the downtown West Precinct.

She took a lead role in cracking down on serious officer misconduct that rocked the precinct. One officer was fired and two sergeants were disciplined in 2005 after a long-running investigation into drug use and misconduct, some related to off-duty security work in Belltown.

Pierce retired at a time when the city plans to hire a new police chief to replace Gil Kerlikowske, who left in May to head the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position commonly known as “drug czar.”

Diaz was a deputy chief when appointed interim chief by Mayor Greg Nickels, and he has said he plans to apply for the permanent job.

Nickels, ousted from the mayoral race in the August primary, has said he will leave the selection to his successor, Joe Mallahan or Mike McGinn, the two candidates in the Nov. 3 general election.

But Nickels is working with the candidates to see if there is a way to begin the search before one of them takes office in January.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com