SEATTLE - Jim Pugel, the former Interim Seattle Police Chief, is expected to retire as early as this week and Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer announced his retirement Tuesday.
Sources tell KIRO 7 the longtime department veterans were given the option of being demoted to captain or retiring - even though Pugel had been praised by the Department of Justice monitor. The city cannot fire them without cause.
This is the latest shake-up in the Seattle Police Department, which saw Pugel forced out to make Assistant Chief Harry Bailey the new interim chief. Bailey, who turns 70 this year, started with the department in 1969 and came out of retirement to take the interim chief job.
Read Kimerer's full statement below.
Top commanders pushed out
Pugel, Kimerer and Assistant Chief Mike Sanford were not at the Mayor Ed Murray’s office when he announced Bailey as the interim chief. Sanford announced Jan. 13 that he would retire in March. Biographies for Pugel and Sanford have already been removed from the department’s command staff web page.
In November, Pugel demoted Assistant Seattle Police Chief Nick Metz to captain – a role that began Dec. 2. As an assistant chief, Metz oversaw homicide, fraud investigation, auto theft, major crimes and other units. Both Metz and Kimerer were demoted by Pugel last year from deputy chief positions to assistant chiefs.
In July 2012 Seattle officials agreed to an independent monitor and court oversight of Seattle police after the U.S. Department of Justice found officers routinely used excessive force. The deal, which followed months of discussions, also called for a special mayor-appointed commission to focus on force issues.
Also in November the federal monitor overseeing the Seattle police reforms said in a second semiannual report that, "because of intransigence and aversion to innovation in some quarters, the Seattle Police Department has not made nearly as much progress during this period as the Monitoring Team knows to have been possible."
But the monitor also had praised the work of Pugel, a Seattle native and University of Washington graduate who joined the department in 1983.
Kimerer, whose mother was the first female U.S. marshal in Seattle, also started in 1983 and became the department’s youngest assistant chief in 1999. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2001 and was among candidates for the police chief position multiple times before John Diaz was named chief in 2010.
‘Predictability and stability in leadership’
Murray has said the department needs new leadership to implement reforms required by the Department of Justice. The mayor has said Seattle needs "predictability and stability in leadership."
To launch the process of choosing a new chief, Murray appointed former City Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski. Murray wants to accelerate the reform process required by the DOJ consent decree, even talking to President Barack Obama during his recent Seattle visit to get meetings with Justice Department officials.
In November Murray also named Bernard K. Melekian, a former federal official and law enforcement consultant from California, as his public safety adviser during the police chief transition. Melekian served as director of the Department of Justice Officer of Community Oriented Policing Services and was chief of the Pasadena Police Department for more than 13 years.
Murray said it was expected there would be a nationwide search for the new Seattle police chief. That new chief is expected to get 10 new officers because of a $1.25 million DOJ grant announced in September.
Bailey was the choice of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the nation’s first gay married mayor. However, Bailey remained on the police guild board in 1993 after the union president testified before Congress that he opposed gays and lesbians in the military, according to an archive Seattle Times story.
E-mail sent at 4:31 p.m. Monday from Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer to Seattle police officers
With gratitude for the opportunity to serve alongside the honorable and courageous men and women of the Seattle Police Department, I am today announcing my decision to retire on June 30, 2014. My last day on the job will be hard on the heels of my 59th birthday, and I will have completed 31 years of service in the Seattle Police Department. These 31 years have been marked each and every day with a humble debt of thanks to all the compassionate, wise, humane and brave sworn and civilian professionals it has been my honor and good fortune to work alongside. It has been my goal to always and everywhere try to return that humanity – and whatever small measure of wisdom I can lay claim to – to my brothers and sisters in SPD, as well as all people who look to the Seattle Police Department for protection and service.
When I reflect upon my wondrous career at SPD, every memory has a context: All that I experienced, learned, and accomplished was always with my colleagues, and never – except for the mistakes – the work of my hands alone. There are assignments I have had that I will ever hold in my memory with humility and gratitude: Patrol, the SWAT Team, DUI Squad Sergeant, 3rd Watch West Commander, West Precinct Commander, Internal Affairs Commander, Vice/Narcotics Commander, and – for the last 15 years – Assistant and Deputy Chief of either Operations or Administration. All these duties have been bound together by a single thread: The opportunity to work with the honorable men and women of the SPD. I will be composing a more lengthy set of reflections as I get nearer to my retirement date. For those who know me, this more elaborate future set of reflections is to be expected (or dreaded).
I want to thank Chief Harry Bailey for taking the mantle of what must be the most difficult job ever conceived of, and – like all the Chiefs I have worked for – he has my loyalty and support. Chief Bailey has asked me to focus between now and my retirement upon several projects critical to the future of SPD, including the Department’s 2014-15 budgets, and other priorities he identifies as we prepare the Department for the transition to a new Chief of Police. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the Department, and to protect and serve the citizens of Seattle. This devotion is based upon the simple truth that my heart abides in the role I started with 31 years ago: In a third watch patrol car in George Sector, listening closely for the next call.
KIRO 7 Executive Producer Casey McNerthney contributed to this report.