Mayor names new interim Seattle police chief, vows reform

SEATTLE -- There's a new top cop in charge -- temporarily -- in Seattle and a nationwide search under way to find a permanent police chief.

Mayor Ed Murray, in office just a week now, says choosing a new police chief will be his single most important decision as mayor. During the search process, which he plans to wrap up in April, he appointed retired Lt. Harry Bailey to take over for Jim Pugel, who's been in that interim position since last year, when Chief John Diaz retired. The mayor also said this change in leadership right now is no reflection on the job Jim Pugel's done as interim chief Pugel continues in the position of assistant chief.

"I'm asking Chief Bailey to look at personnel issues, training issues and other issues we need to deal with," Murray said.

At the press conference formally announcing the shift in power, Chief Bailey started his remarks by saying he would not talk long, because he has a lot of work to do.

Bailey said reform is at the top of his agenda along with restoring confidence in the department and giving officers the support they need.

"My goal now is to move forward on reform," Bailey said, and he's going to start by creating a compliance and reform board to take on this task.

Bailey first joined the Seattle Police Department in 1972. He retired in 2007, but returned in 2012 as a consultant under then Mayor Mike McGinn. He was brought in to help reform the department following a Department of Justice report that found officers resort to excessive force too often.

Murray said one problem has been that officers are not getting a clear message and he's sending a letter out to the force Wednesday afternoon to spell out plans. Murray said they must implement reform, earn the respect of their communities and restore morale within the force.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild, which represents about 1,250 officers and sergeants, welcomed the appointment.

"Chief Bailey has dedicated his life to public service and especially the Seattle Police Department," the union said in a news release. "He worked his way up through the ranks and demonstrated throughout his career a commitment and love for this department and the Seattle community."

Meanwhile, Murray has put forth an aggressive time frame to hire a new chief, saying he'd like to have that decision made by mid-April, and he's forming two committees to help get it done.

The first, made up of 35 community leaders, will seek the public's input on what they want to see in a police chief. A second, smaller committee will be tasked with conducting a national search to find the best candidate for the position.

Murray appointed former King County Executive and former Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims to co-chair those committees along with Pramila Jayapal, founder and former executive director of One America, a non-profit that works to advance immigrant, civil and human rights.

The mayor also appointed Fe Lopez to direct the Community Police commission. That group was created out a separate agreement with the Department of Justice for the public to have input on reform.

The Associated Press contributed to this report