Mayor Murray's Very Bad Week with the Cops

Murray and His Chief Are Letting Officers Off the Hook for Misconduct

Mayor Murray's Very Bad Week with the Cops

Seattle Channel

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You know city hall has a PR crisis when the mayor holds an unexpected press conference at 5 p.m. on a Friday. But then you know the situation has turned into a clown car of bad PR when the mayor's office announces another press conference at 9 a.m. on the following Monday to reverse everything announced at the previous press conference with words including "apologize," "mistake," and "confusion."

That is what happened last week, less than two months into Mayor Ed Murray's term.

At issue: Seattle Police Department interim chief Harry Bailey is repealing verdicts in several cases where officers were found guilt of misconduct (while the city is under a federal court order to reform a department plagued with police misconduct).

The most prominent case stemmed from a complaint I made last summer against Officer John Marion, who threatened me while I was gathering information on a county officer's misconduct. The SPD's discipline bureau and previous chief, who was appointed by former mayor Mike McGinn, found Officer Marion committed an act of "unprofessional" conduct and punished him with a day's unpaid suspension.

On Thursday, Chief Bailey announced that he had reopened the case along with others (under pressure from the influential, conservative police union and with support from Mayor Murray). Instead of the one-day suspension, Bailey assigned the cop additional training. Bailey insisted he had upheld the misconduct verdict itself. Keeping that misconduct decision in place ensured Marion's record would include a demerit to be considered for any future misconduct cases.

But details emerged last Friday demonstrating that is not what Chief Bailey did—and interviews with the Seattle Times, SPD, and city hall suggest that Bailey knew he was misleading city officials. It turns out that Bailey sent the SPD discipline bureau a settlement agreement striking the misconduct verdict that Tuesday, thereby leaving Officer Marion's record unblemished.

A Seattle Times reporter told Chief Bailey that his actions had struck down the misconduct verdict. Still, Bailey went on to tell the mayor and city council in a letter that he "concurred" with the misconduct verdict (which he had actually removed), thereby raising questions about the chief's honesty in handling several other misconduct cases.

That's when Mayor Murray announced the first press conference.

Murray told reporters, "I agree with Chief Bailey's decision." He believed more training for Officer Marion would do more to improve police culture than a day's suspension. Asked about Chief Bailey making false statements on overturning the misconduct decision, Murray stood up for his chief, saying, "I believe we have a chief who is honest and a chief who is restoring the public's faith."

After a cavalcade of negative weekend press, Murray announced a hastily arranged press conference Monday morning.

"I have directed Chief Bailey to reinstate the original finding... I am mayor: the buck stops with me," Murray said in a statement. "So this mistake was mine."

Bailey then told reporters: "Overturning the finding of misconduct was a mistake and sent the wrong message to our officers and the public... It will remain part of the permanent record, which it should be."

That's not what happened for six other cops. As the Seattle Times reported on Monday night, Bailey has removed misconduct findings from the records of six officers.

While it is good that the mayor and chief are taking one officer to task, this whole flip-flop sends a broader message: The police union can get what it wants—persuading the mayor and police chief to scotch misconduct verdicts—when the cases are under wraps, out of the public eye. But cops only get punished when the city faces backlash over a case. That's unfair to cops who don't deserve double standards, unfair to the victims who want to keep their cases private, and a punch in the gut to confidence in the police complaint process. It suggests that political winds and subjective whims trump actual rules for misconduct. This is not what police reform looks like. recommended


Comments (11) RSS

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Lack of respect and arrogance is evident in this early Mayor administration. And not so much a lack of respect for people, but indirectly it is, I mean the lack of respect for decision-making and getting the information to make good decisions. You cant always have all the info you need to make a decision but you should try and get at least something.
Posted by jam1 on February 26, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
I find this article quite troubling upon reading about Mayor Ed Murray's flip-flopped handling of SPD issues, mayoral talk behind closed doors, and business-as-usual politics regarding police reform.

You're right, Dominic. This is not what police reform looks like.
It looks more like the City of Seattle has become a police-state.
My condolences---especially to morally decent, hardworking,
law abiding police officers everywhere.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 26, 2014 at 7:37 PM · Report this
Ed, Ed, Ed, is this all you have learned in your YEARS of politics?

Or are the Seattle PD like J Edgar Hoover. Do they have a "stink file" on every politician?
Posted by orange cat on February 26, 2014 at 8:13 PM · Report this
We have lost 3 mayors as they've stumbled into interwoven thickets of arrogance, antagonism, and retribution and become unintelligible deer in the headlights, unable to criticize random and brutal cops. Accosted by offers of Federal assistance from US Department of Justice to help us figure out and fix whatever we've got so wrong in the way we administer justice around here, they stood like pillars of salt while the cops militated against offers of real reform.
The Justice Department is engaged here, though, and the day is at hand for us to give the whole system a thorough going-over, so let's do it. All y'all salted mayors got to think big - we need the help, we have the talent and we can be a model for justice.
Posted by Songbird on February 26, 2014 at 11:33 PM · Report this
This is just business as usual for SPD and the Mayor's what you want till you get caught, then throw a bone to the public to distract them, then go back to the same ole same ole. Problem is, the public is TIRED of this and is not letting themselves be distracted from the real issues anymore. We are watching...
Posted by woofy on February 27, 2014 at 7:31 AM · Report this
An article on how far the justice department and the courts could go in disciplining or even taking over the SPD, invalidating contracts, etc would be a useful story.
Posted by Schoolboardguy on February 27, 2014 at 9:52 AM · Report this
Woofy - Well stated. Especially "Problem is, the public is TIRED of this and is not letting themselves be distracted from real issues anymore."
Posted by Gray Panther on February 27, 2014 at 9:58 AM · Report this
If I follow correctly, too, the substituted "punishment" of training occurred at a time prior to the findings. It makes me wonder, then, if this training was a normal procedure that was simply later called a "punishment?"

Seems there's more reporting to do around that element.
Posted by Timothy on February 27, 2014 at 10:02 AM · Report this
This is very uncool. I was out of town while this went down so I'll need to read up but I'm displeased. Very.
Posted by KingCast on February 27, 2014 at 11:55 AM · Report this
What ever happened to responsibility and accountability? Police officers are public officials. If police officers are not to be held responsible and accountable for their misconduct what hope is there that any other public officials will be held responsible and accountable for their misconduct? The police chief has now, in my opinion, been shown to be deceitful, to be a liar, and to have betrayed the public trust. We all know that there is no chance that he will be held accountable or be made to accept responsibility for that behavior.
Posted by bowen on March 1, 2014 at 8:42 AM · Report this
I wonder what King County Sheriff John Urquhart is thinking about Mayor Ed Murray and the SPD right now.
Posted by auntie grizelda on March 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM · Report this

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