Sources: Pugel out as interim chief; mayor says 'no decision'

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:


SEATTLE — Sources told KIRO 7 that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray planned to name a new interim Seattle police chief on Tuesday, but in a tweet to KIRO 7 the mayor said he’s made “no decision on an interim chief.”

However, a spokesman for Murray said that a Tuesday press briefing to discuss police reform and leadership was cancelled after KIRO 7 reported that Jim Pugel was going to be removed as interim chief. He said the briefing will be rescheduled when the mayor is ready to make a comprehensive announcement about his plans. 

The spokesman also acknowledged that there was talk of appointing a new interim chief, but Murray had not met with Pugel recently to discuss his future.

Murray has not offered the interim job to anyone, spokesman Jeff Reading said.

Murray, who ousted the incumbent mayor and took office Jan. 1, has said he wanted to name a new permanent police chief within his first three months. Current Interim Chief Jim Pugel, who took the role in April 2013, met with Murray in a private meeting last November – the month Murray selected a top adviser in the police chief transition.

Reading explained that the mayor has been advised that it may be more difficult to attract the best pool of applicants if the current interim chief is also a candidate for the job. Pugel has said he will apply for the job.

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. 

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."

Later that month 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.

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.

Pugel, a Seattle native and University of Washington graduate who joined the department in summer 1983, said he wanted the permanent police chief position, but previously told KIRO 7 he wants to stay with the department if he did not get the full-time chief job.

"Absolutely," said Pugel, 54. "I love this department."

Previous coverage

Seattle's next mayor shares plans for his first hundred days

Interim Police Chief meets with Seattle's new mayor

New federal monitor report critical of Seattle Police Department

Federal grant to bring more cops to Seattle

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