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Reform in Reverse

How Mayor Ed Murray Unraveled Two Years of Police Reform in Only Two Months

Reform in Reverse

Danny Hellman

The Seattle Police Officers' Guild is a club of retrograde good old boys that embodies the most toxic aspects of cop culture. Officially a labor union representing about 1,250 sworn officers—negotiating police contracts, shaping department policy—the guild's past leadership admits that the union, commonly known as SPOG, spends most of its time defending officers involved in misconduct investigations.

After a spate of misconduct cases arose in 2010, eventually resulting in the US Department of Justice finding that Seattle police have a pattern of using excessive force, editorials began appearing in the SPOG newspaper, the Guardian, attacking political leaders who supported reform, opposing the reform plan, and calling to overturn programs intended stop racial profiling. The city's Race and Social Justice Initiative is "an assault on traditional and constitutional American values," one Guardian piece declared. Efforts to combat racial profiling were "socialist policies" perpetrated by "the enemy" (with "the enemy" being city officials who wanted to work on the racial profiling issue). Another piece, published the same year a cop threatened to "beat the fucking Mexican piss out of" an innocent man, argued cops should be allowed to call citizens "bitch" and "n***a" (asterisks appeared in the original). SPOG compared the Justice Department's investigation to the federal government's bloody standoffs at Waco and Ruby Ridge. They said the city attorney charging an officer with assault after the officer kicked a teenager lying on the ground was "a calculated and evil move." They sued to block the police reform plan after it was approved by a judge. And they said that several assistant chiefs partnering with elected officials to implement early reforms were a sign that "the enemy" had found "new allies... at the very top of SPD."

Late last summer, SPOG leaders met with one of those assistant chiefs—Jim Pugel, who'd since become interim police chief—to press Pugel to renegotiate at least 19 cases in which officers had been found guilty of misconduct. SPOG wanted its officers cleared of wrongdoing, and it wanted to accomplish this by using a little-known procedure in which the union president and police chief simply sign a piece of paper that removes the misconduct from an officer's permanent file. Otherwise, the union threatened, it would litigate these aggrieved cases to one of the city's appellate bodies. Appealing to these bodies is costly; it basically amounts to going to court. To hear them out first, Pugel said SPOG could present its case in a mediation meeting with representatives of the SPD and the city attorney's office. That meeting in mid-September ran seven hours.

The union was "unwilling to budge on any case," Pugel remembers. "I said, 'It's over—let's close the mediation. Ignore them for the time being and let the discipline stand.'"

Pugel was particularly unwilling to downgrade discipline—or exonerate officers—in cases where a cop had used excessive force, showed unprofessional rudeness, or escalated a situation. After all, the Justice Department had recently dinged the SPD for escalating minor situations into violent clashes.

But the union was relentless.

"They would continually ask in different meetings if they could revisit this case or that case," Pugel recalls. "It was brought up to me at least once every two or three weeks." He agreed to send six of the cases to the city attorney's office for a legal review last December, although that "was not an indication that I'm going to settle these." As City Attorney Pete Holmes puts it, "Pugel wanted to know which are our strongest cases and weakest cases, assuming we go to arbitration."

(Full disclosure: Pugel was briefly my babysitter when I was too young to remember. It's a small town.)

Before the city attorney's office replied with a legal analysis, Mayor Mike McGinn, Pugel's boss at the time, left office, having been voted out in part because of his feckless oversight of the police department. McGinn's opponent, Ed Murray, ran on a platform of public safety and police reform, but he was always a little bit vague about how he would change the department.

Pugel had not been vague about reforming the department. As interim police chief, he signaled his pro-reform bona fides on his first day in office when he changed SPD's motto from "Preventing crime, enforcing laws, supporting public safety" to the radically progressive "Excellence, justice, humility, harm reduction." Pugel led the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion project for Seattle, which is an internationally acclaimed program to direct nonviolent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail. A pilot project in Belltown was recently expanded to all of downtown. That put Pugel, with no exaggeration, at the vanguard of progressive policing to eradicate crime, reduce recidivism, and bring peace to neighborhoods without resorting to the heavy-handed tactics of yesteryear.

"You can't just use force," Pugel says, describing the need for public-health-based responses to crime. "Sometimes, unfortunately, you have to use force, but that cannot be your first response. That is why successful and innovative police departments will always try to bring different solutions, because if you just rely on force and stop-and-frisk, then you are going to alienate everyone."

After Mayor Murray assumed office, it became clear very early on what his vision for reform looked like. In one of his first acts as mayor, he demoted Pugel, who was forced to leave his office at SPD headquarters and move into a basement office on Airport Way South, a location sources in the department have dubbed "Siberia." This was particularly odd considering that a December report by the federal court monitor singled out Pugel for his reform work: "Chief Jim Pugel merits recognition for open-mindedness and responsiveness to our inquiries and requests." That report also praised another leader, Assistant Chief Michael Sanford, for displaying "an admirable willingness to act with a sense of urgency and an ability to adroitly manage bureaucratic issues that could otherwise routinely thwart progress." Shortly after his demotion, SPD announced Pugel was "retiring"—even though Pugel had signaled his desire to run the department permanently and, at 54 years old, wasn't of retirement age. Sources say Pugel was told to either take another demotion (to captain) or leave. Sanford also suddenly announced his "retirement" under similar circumstances.

"There's a core group of people in SPOG and SPMA"—the Seattle Police Management Association, the union that represents high-ranking officers—"who hate Sanford," said an SPD officer who spoke to The Stranger on the condition of anonymity. "And Sanford is the guy trying to change the department culture."

Who did Mayor Murray fill SPD's leadership vacuum with? Who did he put in charge? A retired officer named Harry Bailey, who immediately proved himself far more sympathetic to SPOG than his predecessor. Those six cases that Pugel sent to the city attorney's office? Bailey immediately agreed to overturn all of them, signing a short stack of contracts that said the cops' personnel files "will be updated to reflect the finding of a Training Referral with no discipline imposed." SPOG president Richard O'Neill signed in blue ink on February 11, and Chief Bailey signed in purple ink on Valentine's Day.

The city council was stunned that the police chief and union could reverse cases like this. And even Anne Levinson, independent auditor of the SPD's Office of Professional Accountability, which oversees internal misconduct investigations, said, "I was not aware of what appears to be a pattern of resolving cases without proceeding with the appellate process." It turns out this practice has existed for years. Levinson's research found that of the 605 officer discipline cases between 2011 and 2013, 128 resulted in a misconduct finding. The union appealed 37 of those cases. Only two of those cases were resolved by actually going before the city's discipline review board or labor commission. The rest were settled or are unresolved. By routinely expunging the misconduct from officers' records, the next case against the officer becomes the first—setting a precedent that officers can simply get misconduct findings removed.

Then the excuses began.

In a press conference on February 21, Mayor Murray told reporters that those six cases resulted from a "backlog of grievances" and the settlements "were already decided by the previous chief." SPOG president O'Neill regurgitated those talking points in an address to city council members the next week. O'Neill claimed, "The reason for the backlog of appeals and grievances, some dating back to 2011, was because, especially in an election year, no one wanted to make a decision."

That was not true. Pugel had not decided to settle the cases—he'd merely sent them to the city attorney for an opinion. The "backlog" itself was the result of Pugel deciding not to settle them. If the union had gone to arbitration, appealed to one of the appellate boards, or just dropped the cases, there wouldn't have been a backlog. Council Members Nick Licata and Bruce Harrell made this very point in a March 25 letter to the mayor's consultant on police reform. So, the union had created the "backlog," but Murray had gone along with the idea that it wasn't the union's fault, perhaps the unwitting dupe in someone else's attempt to obfuscate, perhaps a willing agent of that attempt—either way, a bad move for the new mayor.

Bailey, by the way, is the former vice president of SPOG. Sources tell The Stranger that SPOG had pressed Murray to appoint Bailey as chief. (Murray denies this.)

What does Mayor Murray see in Bailey? A lot, apparently. When Joni Balter, a former Seattle Times columnist, asked Murray in a television interview in January who his "best-case scenario kind of candidate" for police chief is after interim chief Bailey steps aside, Murray said, "Well, um, I am looking for Chief Bailey, actually. You know, if I were to describe somebody, I would describe him."

Those six cases Chief Bailey overturned at the union's behest were not the only instances of Bailey defending officers in questionable circumstances.

On the third Saturday night of January of this year, Seattle police officers were patrolling Belltown's crowded sidewalks when they saw two men fighting. One of them, a young African American man, had a gun. "As detectives moved in, the suspect took off running with the gun in his hand," the SPD Blotter reported the next day. As the suspect ran away from them, "the detectives gave chase and shot the suspect, striking him at least once in the buttocks."

Did the cops do the right thing? Was it appropriate to shoot that man in the butt?

That's a very serious question, because determining whether force is justified or unjustified is at the heart of the five-year federal court order to reform the SPD. Showing that police use force judiciously is also critical to restoring public trust after a spate of controversial incidents involving officers punching, kicking, and shooting civilians. A federal court settlement now mandates that SPD investigate every serious use-of-force incident to determine if the action was justified.

In this Belltown shooting, the officers may well have been justified. After all, a suspect brandishing a firearm in a crowd is dangerous. But then again, shooting a man when he's running away from you is practically shorthand for excessive force. So the SPD faced questions.

Interim chief Bailey stood alone on a podium on January 22 wearing a sharply pressed blue uniform, each collar decorated with four new brass stars. Fresh to the job, Bailey was now facing a skeptical press. "An overwhelming number of comments talk about him shot in the butt—in the back," said KIRO Radio's Brandi Kruse. "Can you address this again, for people who are concerned when they hear that officers shot at him while he was turned away from them?"

How Bailey replied would be an important test. At this point, officials still hadn't investigated the shooting to determine if it was justified.

"I think, for me, it is not a concern," Bailey told reporters. "From the briefing that I got, when this officer arrived at the scene, that suspect was facing him. So if there is a message at all, it is he is an extremely lucky man right now that he was shot in the lower extremities as opposed to being dead."

Regardless of the investigation's final results, that reply from Bailey—that the suspect is "extremely lucky" that he's not "dead"—alarmed lawyers and groups tracking police reform.

"To blame the person who was shot before there is any investigation seems ill-advised," says Jennifer Shaw, who is deputy director of the ACLU of Washington and sits on the police commission, which advises the city on reform. Others were concerned, too: The Public Defender Association sent a stern letter to Bailey warning that appearing to "prejudge" the shooting could undermine a fair investigation.

After all, it was excessive force that led to the settlement we're in, and Shaw's organization had spearheaded a formal request in 2010 asking the Justice Department to probe the SPD, a probe that ultimately led to the settlement. Earlier that year, now-infamous videos had emerged of Seattle police using heavy force against people of color. The most controversial case involved Officer Ian Birk, who chased down a Native American man named John T. Williams, who was shuffling across the street with a wood-carving knife—along with a piece of wood he was carving—and shot Williams at close range, killing him. The SPD's firearms board ruled the Williams shooting unjustified, and likewise, it may find that this January's shooting in Belltown was also unjustified—when it gets around to inquiring. As it turns out, the department still hasn't conducted a review to determine if the force was justified in this shooting, or in the three other officer-involved shootings since last November, SPD spokesman Andrew Garber confirms. He says the department is trying to reconcile its new policies for reviewing force with the longstanding review process for the firearms board.

"If any member of the SPD makes cavalier statements about force, particularly deadly force, that would suggest they do not have an appreciation for the problems we have had for years," says Bruce Harrell, chair of the city council's public safety committee. He's not condemning Bailey, he says, but still, the chief should not be "defaulting to one side or the other."

Bailey doubled down in a follow-up interview. He said officers "showed extraordinary restraint out there," and that the particular officer who fired on the suspect had been "looking down the barrel of a gun." Bailey did not explain how this could have been the case when the suspect was shot in the rear. Bailey also said he couldn't imagine how anyone would see the incident as anything other than an attempt on the officer's life. Was Bailey missing the point that critics were raising—that it was problematic for him, as chief, to prematurely declare the officer was justified? "I didn't miss the point of the question," he fired back. "Is it your opinion—whatever happens out there that the officer should disregard life and safety issues?"

Shaw counters that Bailey should have explained that "the matter is under investigation." Blaming victims and clearing officers has been a pattern "for years" at SPD, Shaw says, noting the Williams killing in particular.

What got the SPD into this federal settlement was not just a pattern of excessive force, but a pattern of downplaying that excessive force, circling the wagons to protect the cops involved, and thereby sending a message that officers could commit acts of misconduct with impunity. That wagon-circling behavior "stopped in the past few years," says Anita Khandelwal, an attorney and supervisor of the Racial Disparity Project at the Public Defender Association. But she and others are concerned that Bailey's handling of the shooting—along with several other recent incidents—indicate that SPD's progress is reversing.

"Commenting on incidents while an investigation is still pending, and seeming to prejudge that investigation, is something we often saw in the 'old days,'" says Khandelwal. "It's dismaying to see a step backward, given that investigation of use of force is a central issue in the consent decree."

And that is just one in a litany of unusual acts from this new leadership. In the time since Murray took office, the culture has shifted inside the Seattle Police Department, according to interviews with members of the police commission, officials at city hall, lawyers, and several cops. First, Murray handed the department's reins to the archconservative police union. Then, the SPD quickly reversed verdicts against multiple officers who were previously found guilty of misconduct, canceled a contract with a UW researcher who was to monitor racial bias in drug enforcement, shed department leaders who promoted reform and kept the union at bay, blamed current mistakes on the reformers they said good-bye to, and then consistently got caught making statements that are difficult to square with the facts.

Murray and his backers disagree.

"I think that police reform is finally happening, because it was not happening before January 1," says Murray, referring to the day he took office. He says that critics simply want to take credit for reform themselves instead of giving credit to his administration. "I see a department taking its first baby steps out of a multiyear dysfunctional history." Asked about Chief Bailey prejudging the shooting, Murray responded, "I don't believe he was doing that."

Murray credits Bailey's appointment, the subsequent demotion of certain command staff, and promotion of SPOG's cronies as proof of progress at the SPD.

US Attorney Jenny Durkan even noted in a recent interview that, with Murray as mayor, "I am seeing a greater commitment to reform than I have previously."

Former mayor McGinn had his share of slipups—including obstinately quibbling with some of the Justice Department's findings (for example, he doubted the Feds' argument that Seattle officers used excessive force in 20 percent of instances where force was used). Problems persisted with McGinn after the court order, such as failing to record in-car video, not collecting data on police stops, and inadequately staffing the sergeants who supervise street cops. McGinn squabbled with Durkan and City Attorney Holmes, who had been a police watchdog, and butted heads with council members (to be fair, Holmes and the council spoiled for these fights, too). But now, Durkan says, with Murray and other elected officials unified, "There is one message: Reform is here, it's going to happen."

Durkan says it is "exciting" that a federal judge approved new policies for stopping suspects, bias-free policing, and using force. Meanwhile, a reform compliance bureau with five captains has been elevated, now run by an assistant chief.

"How people view the police department is critical," says Durkan. "If we make changes but the people don't trust them, they are not the right changes or the changes are not complete enough."

And the opposite of reform, on a basic level, would involve demoting or firing the cops doing all the good work while promoting the cops who oppose it. The opposite of reform would be police getting off the hook for misconduct, the chief protecting bad cops, and the political establishment protecting the chief.

Lisa Daugaard, a public defender and deputy director of the Defender Association, flags many of the patterns that have emerged over the past several months as reasons to think that all may not be well in the quest for "reform."

Asked how we would know if reform were in trouble, Daugaard said: "Inaccurate or misleading public statements about what's occurring in the department." She added that other warning signs would be a sudden lack of critical commentary when the department misses deadlines, demoting or reassigning whistleblower cops identifying problems, reluctance to share information with civilian oversight bodies, and making statements that downplay the importance of discipline in transmitting values. "There are still many talented women and men of goodwill and good intentions in SPD doing their best to make things better," says Daugaard. But, she says, "many I speak with are demoralized by some of the recent changes, because leadership in this area to date has been penalized, not rewarded, while resistance has been rewarded, not penalized. They can read the writing on the wall."

Murray is clearly enamored with SPOG, and it's no secret that SPOG is enamored with Murray.

"All I can say is that it is a welcome change," SPOG president O'Neill wrote in a farewell address printed in the Guardian after Murray's election.

Ron Smith, who was sworn in as SPOG's new president on February 26, said in a recent interview that he believes Murray will be a better leader than McGinn was. Under Murray, "Chief Bailey has made more decisions in the first couple months he's been there than most who had been there in the past," Smith said. Those decisions include the demotions of Pugel and Sanford.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, the forward-thinking head of the SPD's media division, has been effectively banished. You may recall SPD's infamously funny Twitter account—run by former Stranger writer Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, whom Whitcomb hired—or the SPD's effort to teach stoners the rules of the new pot-legalization law by posting them on bags of Doritos handed out at Hempfest. Some officers reportedly complained about Whitcomb's outreach efforts. Who was out to get Whitcomb? The head of SPOG, several sources told The Stranger. They say that SPOG president Smith posted a comment on Facebook that suggested Whitcomb would receive retribution. Smith says the Facebook posting was "taken grossly out of context" and that an internal investigation found no wrongdoing. Today, Whitcomb sits at a desk at the city's emergency operations center, essentially put on ice.

Pugel embodied reform. Sanford embodied reform. Whitcomb embodied reform. And look what's happened to them. The Murray administration claims to support progress, but proves it will actually punish the officers behind it.

"People have been keeping their heads down and doing the bare minimum," said one officer when asked about the mood at SPD. "There is an atmosphere of fear."

The officer continued: "The way I see it, these are people who have a deep institutional knowledge of the organization, have been there a long time and earned their way to the top, and have been chipping away at deficiencies for three years... After a long struggle to make this a better organization, boom, they are all gone. You bring in new people who are less experienced, and you give them the same task, but you have erased that last few years of work. It probably sets us back a couple of years."

Meanwhile, in the midst of those demotions and "retirements," several problematic figures in the department got promotions. Joe Kessler, a vice president of the Seattle Police Management Association, which sued to block the reform plan along with SPOG, was elevated to assistant chief and now runs the powerful operations bureau, overseeing all the precincts. Mike Washburn, who opposed the selection of the court monitor, is now Bailey's chief of staff. And Nick Metz, who Pugel demoted last year, was restored to assistant chief.

The SPD employees I interviewed were taken aback by these changes.

One particularly well-placed officer at SPD, who asked not to be named in this article for fear of retribution (a different officer than the one mentioned before), talked about it like this: "I don't think the mayor or his staff had any idea what they were doing when they canned the people they canned and promoted the people they promoted." Murray has insisted that cleaning house was necessary for reform, but when asked about the message the shakeup sent, the officer disagreed: "If the people who have been opposing the federal court monitor and reform are elevated, how hard should you work now? There is a risk in working hard to achieve reform. It sends a message that is, at best, confusing about whether they want reform to be successful. Why would you put the fox in charge of the henhouse? How do the hens feel when you put the fox in charge? Are the hens going to be open and willing to really go out there to take some risks? Any risk they take may piss off the folks who are in charge.

"I think a lot of us were quite stunned," the officer continued. "I don't know what they think they did. The mood was shock—complete shock—because everyone who was involved in reform was gone or buried. People just stopped talking. It was like, 'Whoa, what was that all about? What just happened here? What does this mean?'"

Washburn, Bailey's chief of staff, resisted the police monitor last year, according to the Seattle Times, which reported that Washburn believed picking Merrick Bobb as the hard-nosed SPD monitor would undermine morale among the rank-and-file officers (i.e., SPOG members).

Meanwhile, Kessler is, according to department sources, an old-guard cop. "In public, he'll talk about all sorts of things that sound generally positive," said that well-placed officer in the SPD. "In private, he's the kind of guy who will come up, put his hand on your shoulder, and say, 'I'd be concerned about pushing that issue very far' or 'Be careful what you say.'" The officer explained that Kessler, who had been recruited to advise McGinn, refused to write a brief code of ethics. And the Seattle Times reported in 1999 that Kessler was the subject of an investigation, in which he allegedly called KOMO to say that one of their reporters, Liz Rocca, was gay. That threat was reportedly in retaliation for her reporting on a lawsuit against Kessler by other SPD officers. KOMO received an apology; Kessler was never punished. Now he's one of the most powerful figures at SPD and the chief's right-hand man. (The SPD did not respond by press time to a request for comment about Kessler.)

Metz, according to a number of officers, is widely considered more interested in himself and his own relationships than the health of the SPD. After the monitor report noted there was "resistance" to reform in the SPD's upper command staff that compromised the settlement agreement, Metz was demoted to captain, only to be promoted again to assistant chief under the Murray administration. (The SPD didn't respond to a request for comment about Metz, either.)

Having seen progressive-minded cops subverted, officers who support reform say they are scared under this new SPOG-friendly regime.

"It isn't what happens today that everyone is paying attention to, it's what will happen eight months from now when the drama has died down," the well-placed officer said. "Folks are not worried about immediate retaliation. It's whether you're on the right side of the union. There is only one place in the city that all the discipline files of the department are kept, and it's the union office."

Will they use those files to smear officers who resist this regime?

"Oh, fuck yeah," the officer said. "There's a ton of internal maneuvering to settle old scores."

When I asked Bailey about his personnel changes, he repeatedly declined to comment. I pointed out that many people—including officers—were concerned because he appeared to demote reform agents while promoting a good old boys' club.

"When I hear things like that, it just makes me angrier than anything," Bailey exploded. "It questions my reputation. I have worked hard to get rid of bigotry. Here it is, the lifetime achievement award from the NAACP," said Bailey, who is African American. He pointed out that he sat down with gay and lesbian people on Capitol Hill when he worked in the East Precinct. "I get angry about people who question [my staff's] integrity. My life is personal," he said. "There is no way between here and hell that I would allow any injustice to happen."

As I left his office, Bailey apologized several times for losing his cool.

In office, Murray has shown he is willing to do SPOG plenty of favors. The seeds were probably planted as early as 2011, when SPOG was furious with then-mayor McGinn for cooperating with federal investigators and denouncing SPOG for being in "a state of denial about the nature and severity of this problem."

"We the rank and file of SPOG are under siege from City Hall, led by Mayor Mike McGinn's frequent trashing of YOUR guild in public," Officer Ron Smith wrote at the time in the Guardian. He warned cops that McGinn was "trying to fundamentally transform the deep-rooted culture of our beloved police department" and said the problems won't end until voters "oust this mayor from office." Smith then asked for donations so SPOG could "seek out a candidate we can get behind and support all the way to the finish line."

During last year's election cycle, SPOG endorsed Murray and donated $15,000 to a pro-Murray PAC called People for a New Mayor.

Upon Murray's election, the Guardian gushed that the "sweeping changes" at the department "garnered immediate support from police officers," and soon it was declaring: "Welcome back, Chief Bailey."

In the third week of Murray's term, SPOG saw results. Bailey sent a memo to officers announcing that he "authorized the purchase of the next generation of Seattle Police patrol vehicles: the Ford Police Interceptor Utility." SPOG had pressed the city to buy these SUVs last year, but the McGinn administration frustrated SPOG by putting the order on hold to explore more fuel-efficient alternatives, including hybrids.

In the January 16 memo, Bailey also decreed officers must begin wearing traditional eight-point police hats whenever possible. "I believe the combination of a sharp uniform—which includes the 8-point hat—with the new patrol vehicles will project a professional image to the public," he wrote.

The same week, Bailey also canceled a contract with a University of Washington researcher who was slated to study the racial impacts of marijuana enforcement. Many old-guard cops never liked UW sociologist Katherine Beckett, whose peer-reviewed research over the past decade revealed that Seattle had among the highest levels in the country of racial disproportionality for drug busts. Beckett's study was going to monitor how citations for smoking pot in public were issued—along with pot DUIs and other arrests—now that voters had legalized marijuana. The ordinance creating that citation specifically said that the practice of issuing those tickets needed to be "closely monitored for its race and social justice impacts" by a consultant. Pugel says he drafted a contract with Beckett, in particular, "because she was very candid in the years that she looked at our arrests in Belltown for our buy busts, she is trusted, and she has credibility as an outside university professor who has worked in this area before."

Picking an independent researcher to work for the city, Beckett says, "signaled a refreshing willingness to identify and address practices that have a disproportionate impact on Seattle's communities of color."

But Bailey pulled the plug, deciding the SPD would conduct the research in-house and let an outsider review it later.

Beckett worries that move "signals a shift away from this commitment to transparency and public accountability... Even if SPD were able to conceive and conduct this research in-house, community confidence in any findings is likely to be higher if the analysis is done by an independent researcher with a track record of publishing in this area."

The most controversial misconduct case in Murray's nascent term involved me, weirdly enough. It was based on a complaint I filed against Officer John Marion, who'd come to the aid of a King County deputy who threatened to arrest me last summer after I took his photo. Officer Marion threatened several times to come "bother" me at work. In January, the King County Sheriff's Office fired the deputy for lying about the incident and abusing his authority, and interim SPD chief Pugel issued a one-day suspension to Officer Marion for being rude. That seemed like a light penalty, but at least Marion was found guilty of misconduct, which would go into his permanent file.

Within days, Bailey was appointed chief, and SPOG was pressing to have Marion's misconduct case overturned. Bailey, without consulting the city attorney's office, as is standard practice, agreed to settle the case. That settlement reduced Marion's penalty from a one-day suspension to a training referral. In doing so, Bailey also removed any record of misconduct from Marion's personnel file.

Strangely enough, Bailey claimed to the Seattle Times and to me that he had not overturned the misconduct finding—that the misconduct verdict would stand. He even sent a letter on February 20 to the city council and mayor that said "I concur with the disposition" of misconduct. But as Council President Tim Burgess put it in a stern e-mail to Bailey, "By changing the disposition to a training referral you have, in effect, reversed the sustained misconduct from the officer's record." Given that Bailey had reopened numerous cases and reversed earlier findings, Burgess added that Bailey's action could "cause great harm to the credibility of the Police Department's ability to properly receive and investigate citizen complaints of police misconduct."

But Bailey stuck to his guns, and Murray stood by him. In a 5 p.m. press conference on a Friday, Murray claimed, "The information [from Bailey] is consistent and doesn't contradict itself." I pointed out that Bailey claimed he didn't overturn the misconduct finding when he actually did. Murray stood firm: "You know, so this is a great legal argument. We ought to be in a Jesuit seminary and splitting hairs."

What? "The discipline of [Officer Marion] will be rescinded," reads the settlement that Bailey signed on Valentine's Day. The Stranger obtained a copy of that settlement, which said explicitly that Marion's "personnel file and OPA records will be updated to reflect the finding of a Training Referral with no discipline imposed." Bailey signed that document on the same day, just as he signed the documents reversing those other six misconduct cases, which makes any claims that he didn't realize he was expunging the misconduct from Marion's record difficult to believe.

The following Monday morning—after a weekend of bad media on the incident—Murray announced yet another hasty press conference. Again, Bailey stood alone on the podium. "Overturning the finding of misconduct was a mistake and sent the wrong signal to our officers and the public," he said. Saying he had only meant to lighten the penalty, not remove the finding of misconduct, Bailey announced, "I am reinstating the misconduct finding." He said the entire mishap was an innocent mistake.

But still, misrepresentations continued. Bailey said his intent in giving Officer Marion training was to "pursue an education-based discipline." That discipline was sending Marion to address his precinct at roll calls to explain what he'd done wrong (threatening to harass me at work). Bailey insisted it was "my decision," and "that having the officer go out and talk to his fellow officers" about what he did wrong was better than giving Marion a day off work. Murray also said that Marion "will have an opportunity to be retrained." Murray said in a statement, "Chief Bailey felt that mandating a training and education day for the officer in question would be a more constructive use of time."

There are two problems here: Bailey didn't assign Officer Marion more training—nor did Murray. Marion had already addressed the roll calls of his own volition, well before this chief was appointed, even before this mayor took office. A March 7 letter from Lieutenant Steven Strand to the chief says, "Following the incident on July 30, 2013, Officer Marion immediately volunteered to do presentations for fellow officers... during the months of December, January, and February." Strand even added, "The training that was created and delivered had not been any part of the discipline process." Nor is there any evidence that Marion actually received corrective training, which was the implication of the mayor's and chief's statements. Instead, he taught others about his mistake.

Council Member Licata, who had extracted the letter from SPD, drilled down further. He said in a rejoinder on March 21: "The additional information you have provided raises additional concerns about the accuracy of information provided to the Council and public... Consistently, the tense used indicated the training was something that was going to happen in the future," but the trainings "had already occurred and were the result of Officer Marion volunteering to do them." Licata said that does "not at all align with statements made that the training was a form of discipline."

"I also have concerns about the impact of allowing an officer to effectively choose his or her own punishment," Licata said.

Murray ended up apologizing, but not for the misrepresentations. "Chief Bailey and I have had extensive discussions about this case. We both agree: This was a mistake," Murray said in a statement. "The decision to change the discipline was the call of the Chief. But I stood with the Chief and publicly supported that decision. And I am Mayor: The buck stops with me." He admitted, "To many, our actions look like the opposite of reform." But then he double-crossed himself to say, "But it cannot be overstated: Chief Bailey misled no one."

Uh-huh.

City Attorney Holmes says Bailey was simply gullible: "I think he trusted people who were not worthy of his trust." If true, however, this undermines the idea that Murray picked an interim police chief with strong bureaucratic chops and great judgment.

Regardless of the reason, the flip-flop by Murray and Bailey on Officer Marion's discipline—and what appears to be a persistent pattern of misrepresentation—sends a broader message. When Officer Marion and the police union first wanted this misconduct finding reversed, they got it. Yet when, in response, the public, politicians, and media kicked up a fuss, the officer got in trouble again. But those six other cases? All of those officers got their misconduct permanently expunged from their records.

A special consultant to the mayor on police issues, Bernard Melekian, issued a report approving the reversals of those misconduct findings. Melekian is the former police chief of Pasadena, a former employee of the Justice Department, and the current president of a high-end law-enforcement consulting firm called the Paratus Group. Between last fall and March 31, the city paid Melekian $100,000, according to the mayor's office. (Melekian pays his costs of commuting from California, he says, so "I am not getting rich off the City of Seattle.") In his report on those six cases, Melekian indicated that reversing those misconduct findings was what Pugel had intended, and that the "handling of these cases was delayed unnecessarily by previous department leadership." But Pugel never intended to reverse those cases, and, bizarrely, Melekian never talked to Pugel. "All we had to do was talk, and I could have explained it to him," Pugel said recently. When I asked Melekian if he ever contacted Pugel, he admitted, "I did not." Why on earth does a consultant getting paid a king's ransom to figure out what went wrong with misconduct cases never talk to the one person who had the authority to make decisions with regard to those misconduct cases?

And another question: Is the reason that reversing those cases was so easy simply that those cases didn't involve a reporter at a newspaper? Whatever the reason, it's a backward precedent. It suggests that political winds and subjective whims trump actual rules for misconduct. It sends a message that cops can abuse average citizens with impunity, while the chief—and the entire political establishment—will circle the wagons to protect the cops. That's unfair to the majority of cops who are good and perform brave, upstanding work. It's unfair to citizens. It leads victims to believe their complaints won't get a fair shake, and it leads the public to believe that, in the mayor's own words, we have "the opposite of reform." Yet this is how SPOG appears to want the SPD to run—and this is how Murray is running it.

If you were hoping the US Justice Department would come in to kick some ass—to whip Murray and Bailey into shape—don't count on it. US Attorney Durkan and Mayor Murray are said to be longtime allies, with rumors of political aspirations in the Beltway (hers in the next president's cabinet, and his in Congress). Durkan was the first US attorney to serve openly as a lesbian, and Murray is Seattle's first gay mayor, which is wonderful by all accounts, but many political watchers say they share an interest in boosting each other's careers. (Durkan, for her part, said that the conventional wisdom is wrong. "Whomever you are talking to falls in the 'ain't knowing' club," she said in an e-mail.)

Two weeks before the recent election, Durkan went beyond the federal attorney's typical scope by jumping into a campaign spat. McGinn had said he was responsible for creating the Community Police Commission, a key part of the settlement, and that the Feds had resisted it. Murray had cried foul. Then, out of left field, Durkan sent a letter to commissioners that said, in essence, McGinn shouldn't be taking credit. It said the Feds all along had wanted formal community engagement and a "Community Monitoring Board," but city officials essentially just put the tinsel on that tree.

Which flew in the face of what Durkan said at an August 2012 press conference, when she said McGinn "crafted this very important" commission. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez went further at that press conference, saying, "A signature component of this agreement—which was your idea, mayor, and imitation is a form of flattery, I expect to see this elsewhere in the county—is the creation of the Community Police Commission, which is a critical innovation."

Durkan also took the odd step of issuing a formal statement on January 29, 2014, to applaud Bailey's appointment and the changes to department leadership. "We have met with Interim Chief Harry Bailey and believe he is strongly committed to constitutional and effective policing," she said. Durkan also praised Murray's "steady work and strong leadership"—less than a month into his term—as well as "structural changes to ensure compliance and reform efforts are unified and come from the top." I couldn't find any record of Durkan issuing a statement when Pugel was appointed or when Pugel cleared the decks on the command staff.

While Murray was dealing with the cop-misconduct fallout, Durkan was back again with another well-timed missive. In a letter sent on March 27, she criticized the SPD's progress prior to December 31 (the day before Murray took office). She blasted McGinn, and perhaps rightly so, for having exaggerated the costs of reform by including good but ancillary projects (such as the city's Race and Social Justice Initiative and the "20/20" plan to reform SPD culture). "They dug us in a deep hole, from which we have had to climb out over the last two months," wrote Durkan, who noted that Murray "inherited those problems."

It's hard not to take a cynical view of Durkan's actions: When Murray gets into a mess, the US attorney bails him out with conspicuously well-timed praise for his choices (even when the choices are awful appointments, like Bailey) and criticism of his predecessor (even if those criticisms are old budget estimates, which are no longer timely). Sometimes Durkan's politicking just doesn't make sense. Earlier in this article, I mentioned Durkan citing new SPD policies as evidence that reform is afoot—new rules for making stops, handling bias, and using force—but all of those were approved by the court in December 2013, when McGinn was still overseeing SPD. To be fair to McGinn here, in addition to resisting the encroachment of SPOG, his administration was quite effective at reducing drug activity without heavy-handed busts, ending a racially disparate trespass policy, and defending discipline for certain misconduct.

When Durkan's letter did criticize Murray's misconduct brouhaha, she bizarrely cast zero shade. She just said the "controversy... validates the wisdom" of the settlement agreement and called for a "holistic, systemic review of the accountability system."

In other words, when there is misconduct, the union protects bad cops, the chief protects the union, the mayor and his consultant protect the chief, and the US attorney protects the mayor. The rot goes all the way to the top.

There are two ways to get SPD back on track: hiring a new chief and writing a new contract with SPOG. The mayor's office says it will identify three nominees for police chief in May, which means they're at least a month behind schedule. But a new chief could have unprecedented latitude to clear out the cobwebs. A January law passed by the Seattle City Council allows a new chief to recruit a command staff from outside Seattle, potentially wiping the decks of SPOG's cronies.

"If they appoint a new police chief who is willing to drive a hard bargain alongside the council and mayor, things will be different," says David Perez, a constitutional law attorney who was on a citizens advisory committee for the chief search. But that is not what matters most for reform.

What matters most to Perez is a new contract with SPOG. The current employment contract expires at the end of 2014. Murray's HR department will negotiate it, and Perez says this is the chance to implement several key reforms. On the other hand, he says, "If we get a contract similar to the current contract, reform will remain elusive." (SPOG, for its part, says it "has not, nor will not push an agenda at odds with reform," though it does intend to bargain diligently in upcoming contract negotiations.)

Interviews with Perez, discipline auditor Anne Levinson, the consultant Melekian, and other SPD watchers suggest we should pursue the following changes:

1. Shrink the entire misconduct system so officers have only one avenue to appeal misconduct verdicts. Right now, cops have three ways to challenge cases, and they enjoy more process rights than the criminals they arrest.

2. Move final decisions on appeals out of the chief's hands, ideally to a civilian, and perhaps out of SPD entirely.

3. Eliminate training referral as a punishment, says auditor Levinson. "Despite statements to the contrary," she wrote in a report this month, "training has been and remains an option that the chief can require in addition to discipline."

4. Make the accountability process fair to the complainant by letting them appeal decisions, too. Right now, before the chief ever issues discipline, officers (joined by a SPOG representative) can make their case to the chief in a Loudermill hearing to rebut the complaint. But the person who complains never gets to rebut the officer.

5. Open all these hearings to the public and publish the final dispositions of the cases for public review.

6. Consult the city attorney's office on all misconduct settlements, and require the lawyers to issue a memo about their rationale for settling the case.

7. State explicitly that SPOG is not required to defend officers who engage in indefensible conduct.

8. Don't retroactively make up for raises following delays during contract negotiations. One of the problems with the contracts is that they often expire while negotiations with the city are at loggerheads. But when the parties do sign a contract, cops get back-pay. "Build in a provision that prohibits retroactive pay raises so that there is a real cost to SPOG if a contract isn't negotiated on time," Perez says. "Every day they're operating under an old contract represents an irreversible hit to their wallets rather than a deferred benefit." That gives the city leverage to push SPOG into a new contract sooner.

9. Act on recommendations from the Community Police Commission, which will issue a comprehensive proposal this spring for changes within the SPD. Much of it is expected to implicate the SPOG contract.

SPOG will likely fight these changes.

But city hall must be willing to go to war with SPOG in contract negotiations and be willing to appoint a chief who refuses to capitulate to SPOG's agenda. Right now, that's not happening. Right now, the city says things are better than ever. Right now, Mayor Murray insists he's not in SPOG's pocket, that reform stalled only under his predecessor, that he is an agent for change, and that misunderstandings were a result of "semantics." Right now, Mayor Murray insists the best-case scenario for a new chief is someone exactly like Bailey.

That's insane.

The Seattle City Council, which must confirm the mayor's nominee, refuses to be outwardly critical of Bailey, either. "I think he has been a good interim chief and made some bold decisions," says Council Member Harrell, who leads the city council's public safety committee. And despite Bailey having been caught making dubious statements, Harrell says, "I have confidence in Harry Bailey's leadership, and he has been 100 percent forthcoming with me."

Council President Burgess refused to speak on the record about the issue.

What do these folks have in common? They all enthusiastically endorsed Murray. In this city, political egos bruise like pears, and criticizing the SPD amounts to admitting they may have been wrong. The nice politics of Seattle have trumped honest criticism of city hall's handling of the police. And that doesn't bode well for Seattle.

As things stand, SPOG is getting everything it wants and the citizens are getting a snow job. recommended

For updates, follow Dominic Holden on Twitter: @dominicholden

 

Comments (74) RSS

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1
Oh, Jesus. Someone gave Capt. Butthurt the stink eye and the world has to hear about it forever.
Posted by dslf on April 16, 2014 at 8:28 AM · Report this
2 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
3
I freely admit that Mr. Holden's world view is probably much different from mind and there are few things we would find common ground on, but I have to say this is an amazingly well researched, detailed, and articulate piece! There are a lot of moving parts here that are hard to keep track of, but I think this article nails it. What I wouldn't give to see this ran in the Seattle Times...
Posted by Eastsider on April 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM · Report this
4
And to follow up, I know there will be plenty of commenters claiming this article is just sour grapes from Mr. Holden. But honestly, STFU. This is so much deeper that just feeling a little butthurt. And Mr. Holden rightly calls out SPD and Mayor Murray on their double-talking bullshit.
Posted by Eastsider on April 16, 2014 at 9:05 AM · Report this
5
34 issues of The Guardian, a newsletter edited by SPOG's president, a public employee paid by City of Seattle, thus subject to our state's Public Records Act, are available on Internet Archive.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on April 16, 2014 at 9:07 AM · Report this
6
As someone who's lived in Seattle for 15 years and seen how corrupt and uncaccountable SPD has been over all that time (and coming to understand SPOG's role in fighting any efforts at reform), I'm glad to see this all laid out so plainly, and identifying the need to address not just SPD in general, but SPOG's contract specifically (past contracts have frequently been used to block reforms and changes). I generally liked McGinn, but was incredibly disappointed with how he handled SPD reform. And now having seen how Murray has handled this over the last few months, I'd say that he's on track to do as much -- if not more -- damage, if he and other city officials don't heed the proposals in this article. Pugel was someone taking us in the right direction, while Bailey most certainly is not. And SPOG needs to be reined in. I support labor unions wholeheartedly, but I think negotiations have to recognize that policing is categorically different that many other forms of public service, and so SPD needs to have some level of community accountability that can't be circumvented in the ways it historically has been.
Posted by bookworm on April 16, 2014 at 9:37 AM · Report this
7
I find Holden's description of the SPOG newspaper (paragraph 2) to be hilarious and delicisouly ironic. As I sat here reading the author describe the newsletter as being sensationalist, insensitive, and divisive, and accuse it of engaging in ugly name calling, over-the-topic rhetoric, and labeling others as "ememies"..... ALL I COULD THINK OF is that these qualities are EXACTLY the Stranger's stock and trade! The Stranger owes whatever pathetic success it has to exactly these kinds of distasteful and divisive tactics, which are clearly appealing to the core of it's audience. Thanks for the laugh, morons! Clean up your own house before you complain about your neighbors mess. Now THAT'S some good old fashioned AMERICAN values!

What is former Mayor McGoo up to these days anyways? Probably riding his electic bicycle along Myrtle Edwards Park as we speak.
Posted by Yazza on April 16, 2014 at 9:40 AM · Report this
8
@4 - comments 1 and 2 could very possibly be from angry and scared officers or SPOG members. Anonymous comment sections on blogs attract that kind of response when they don't feel they will ever be held personally accountable.
Posted by Ofc on April 16, 2014 at 9:53 AM · Report this
Fnarf 9
Thanks, Dom.

I'm a police supporter, and always have been. I've always gotten along well with the officers I've met. I supported the police over the protesters during WTO, and would again if it happened again. (I'm also a middle-class white man, so I get at least two passes in all of these interactions.)

So when you've lost me, of all people, you've really lost. And SPD has lost me.

I think the department needs to be REALLY reformed, re-formed, broken apart and formed again. SPOG needs to be broken. Rich O'Neill needs to be fired. Chief Bailey needs to be retired. The only way to turn this department around is to start over. The only way to do that is through the US Justice Department.

This is Mayor Murray's single most important job, and he has not only failed miserably, he is proud of his failure and has doubled down on it. This single issue makes him, after just a few months, the worst mayor in this city for fifty years. He's taken us back to the old SPD, the one that was cleaned out after the kickback scandals of the late sixties. He's not qualified to lead reform; he is an ENEMY of reform. He needs to have the SPD taken away from him.

I think every officer needs to be taking racial justice classes. If they don't want to go, they can take their bullshit elsewhere. They won't earn as much in Mississippi but that's their problem, not ours. There are loads of outstanding officers in SPD. They need a department they can be proud of, and so do we.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on April 16, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Report this
10
@7 The difference being that Mr. Holden essentially has the authority to stand on his soapbox and say whatever he feels like, while the Guardian represents the views of the men and women that we've invested the authority to use deadly force in order to look out for our best interests. If Dom had the legal authority to shoot and kill police officers in the line of his work, and was under federal investigation for regularly abusing his authority to do so, your point might stand.
Posted by Ruke on April 16, 2014 at 10:25 AM · Report this
in-frequent 11
wow
Posted by in-frequent on April 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM · Report this
in-frequent 12
thanks dom. keep it up. this is a huge fight for justice, and this article does an amazing job displaying (part of) the problem.

(and great comment fnarf.)
Posted by in-frequent on April 16, 2014 at 10:37 AM · Report this
in-frequent 13
and -- not to sidetrack things and get lost in the details -- but it seems that either Melekian and Bailey are lying to us, or that they were both misled and (being gullible or malicious) believed what they were told without getting the "other" side of the story. and that's a huge problem with reform, when you don't listen to more than one side of the story.

and what a great (/sarcasm) comment by Murray, "You know, so this is a great legal argument. We ought to be in a Jesuit seminary and splitting hairs." whoa. just... whoa.
Posted by in-frequent on April 16, 2014 at 10:41 AM · Report this
14
Nit to pick: "But then again, shooting a man when he's running away from you is practically shorthand for excessive force."

If a cop sees a suspect with a gun running around in some neighborhood they must respond. A person just seen fighting someone (ie, they have demonstrated they are violent) with a gun is a danger to the public. You can't (as a cop) just let them wander off. You might not HAVE to shoot them, but it's not unwarranted to do so. Duty to Act and all that.
Posted by RandoRandoRando on April 16, 2014 at 11:06 AM · Report this
15
State explicitly that SPOG is not required to defend officers who engage in indefensible conduct.


The first way to stop abuse: do away with any systems of check and balance, do away with the adversarial justice system, and allow politicians and public opinion to run the police department.
Posted by six shooter on April 16, 2014 at 11:09 AM · Report this
16
Don't retroactively make up for raises following delays during contract negotiations.


Management would never abuse this new change and allow unions to work without a contract for years.
Posted by six shooter on April 16, 2014 at 11:12 AM · Report this
17
Dominick Holden, The Strangers next Pulitzer!
Posted by Grambo on April 16, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
18
Am I the only reader whose noticed the Slog's new love affair with ineffective government?

They can't help themselves when it comes to loving McGinn, who was certainly the least effective executive in most of Slog writers' lifetimes.

They believe the route to reform the SPD is more Seattle-style public process, including endless complaints when someone finally makes a decision they don't like.

They refuse to report on Sawant's complete abandonment of her duties on the Council. (you know, the job we pay her to do...)

If not for the sex and drugs, I'd start mistaking this blog for some-kind of Tea Party plan to make the government so ineffective it can't actually govern.
Posted by six shooter on April 16, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Report this
19
@10

Neither the Stranger or the Guardian are under any obligation to change their tone or their tactics. Neither is funded with public dollars, and neither has any obligation beyond pleasing their core audience. Nor do I really give a crap about either one. They are both divisive publications, which is exactly what their readership desires.

I just find the irony of a writer for the Stranger - one of the most venomous and least objective rags in circulation - complaining about a lack of civility or objetivity in other publications to be just too rich and too precious NOT to point out. The hypocrisy and the crocodile tears are heart warming.
Posted by Yazza on April 16, 2014 at 11:21 AM · Report this
20
The Stranger is deleting comments critical of Dom's dual role in covering/complaining about police conduct. And very pleased @19 is pointing out the delicious irony of the hyperbolic Stranger going nuclear because some one "threatened" a staffer by saying he might visit his office. Oh, behave! Mr Police Officer! Just imagine if the cop had used Potty Mouth talk. Hypocrites.
Posted by The Stranger is censoring criticism on April 16, 2014 at 11:33 AM · Report this
in-frequent 21
six shooter -- good point about those two issues. i don't really know how other industries do it, BUT i do like the adversarial system (too bad the SPOG doesn't seem to right now), and i don't think reform is about $$$ really.

THAT SAID, there is such a problem with the SPD right now, OF COURSE we are arguing about what they came up with. BECAUSE WHAT THEY CAME UP WITH perpetuates the problem. it does not solve it.

not sure what we can do about it, but this article seems like an excellent starting point.
Posted by in-frequent on April 16, 2014 at 11:39 AM · Report this
22 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
23
Fantastic investigative reporting Dominic! While Seattle may be unfortunate in the current state of its police department (and mayor's office), we are incredibly lucky to have such a hard-working and diligent reporter in our midst.
Posted by Justin on April 16, 2014 at 11:49 AM · Report this
24
Has Holden mentioned a cop gave him the stink eye once? Are you sure? No worries, he'll tell you again. And again. And again.
Posted by cvzxxc on April 16, 2014 at 12:19 PM · Report this
25
@21 -- I agree there are serious problems with the SPD. I disagree that most of the problems are the fault of the police union. I also disagree that the police union isn't interested in fixing problems.

I have long advocated for investigations into the managing officers and department policy-makers. SPD brass screws line officers instead of taking responsibility for their lack of leadership. SPD brass refuses to send clear messages to those in their command.

SPD leadership always cries the same tears. "Blame the Union," the commanders say. "Evil cops won't let us reform!"

Meanwhile, SPD leadership rewards bad behavior and punishes anyone who dares to challenge their ideas on policing. Once again, they abandon their Operations staff when responsibility knocks.

The only new detail to this same old story is the willing reporter eager to blur the distinction between the bosses and the people who work for a living.

The Union sure is a convenient target for lazy complainers.
Posted by six shooter on April 16, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 26
@19 "Neither the Stranger or the Guardian are under any obligation to change their tone or their tactics. Neither is funded with public dollars"

Actually, the head of the police union is paid by municipal dollars, to edit a union newspaper. So if you wanted to pick nits, yeah, the SPOG/Guardian is at least partly funded with public dollars, or it was under O'neill, according to reports filed here.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on April 16, 2014 at 1:25 PM · Report this
27
@26: It's unclear just what the SPD employee in the position of "SPOG President" does, beyond editing The Guardian and attending public forums to say that we would have the problems we do if people would just do what police tell them to do.

Does he have a desk in an SPD facility, or is he sited exclusively at SPOG's office? Does he do any police work? I would love to know.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on April 16, 2014 at 1:32 PM · Report this
28
@9: Fnarf: I'm sorry to hear that's what's currently going on between Ed Murray and the SPD. I agree: the SPD needs to be gutted and start over from the top down. It's a shame that it's going to take such drastic actions from the Federal Department of Justice to bring any long overdue changes to the force. Here's hoping we see improvements soon.
@17 Grambo: I second that!!
@23 Justin: Agreed! Great work, Dominic!

So basically the SPD is owned and run by the Mafia, now?
My sympathy for morally decent, hard-working yet departmentally demoted officers like Jim Pugel, (and someone Dominic knows personally) and others who have tried to bring long overdue reform, only to have it blocked and punished at every move. How sad that the federal government will have to step in if any positive change in the SPD is to happen at all.

Posted by auntie grizelda on April 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM · Report this
ean 29
Dominic, do you get paid by the word for this stuff? I dropped this article into Word and it came in at 17 pages of TNR 12 point. This is an important subject and I'm glad you're writing about it, but sheesh, try EDITING a bit.
Posted by ean on April 16, 2014 at 1:58 PM · Report this
30
Let us not forget that when communities of color and allies expressed strong opposition to the FBI's Puget Sound Joint Terrorism Taskforce’s “Faces of Global Terrorism” campaign that depicted frighting images of brown/Muslin-looking men on gigantic billboards and on the sides of buses in June of last year, Pugel acted immediately to amplify immigrant communities' concerns through the Mayor's office to the Department of Justice. Subsequently the ads were discontinued immediately. Having worked on that issue, I was amazed at the prompt action from Pugel himself who responded immediately to me via email.

Great piece, Dominic. Let's hope the City Council takes a stand and does not sit by passively.
Posted by Pugel interaction on April 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM · Report this
31
Hard for Seattle's Only Newspaper to go of Mike.
Posted by Arthurstone on April 16, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
32
Hard for Seattle's Only Newspaper to let go of Mike.
Posted by Arthurstone on April 16, 2014 at 2:24 PM · Report this
33
...and Pugel's great stance on detainer reform (i.e. resisting turning King County into a federal ICE mill). Check out the great op-ed Pugel co-authored in the Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/202…
Posted by Pugel interaction on April 16, 2014 at 2:31 PM · Report this
34
This part caught me off-guard:

"There is only one place in the city that all the discipline files of the department are kept, and it's the union office."

Is this really implying that SPD doesn't keep its own independent discipline records?
Posted by cheapredwine on April 16, 2014 at 2:55 PM · Report this
35
@34: An organization of which I'm part, Center for Open Policing, have an outstanding PRA request with Seattle Police Department for every internal investigation file. SPD staff estimate that this will include 225,000 pages.

We made a 10% down-payment on the copying fees (instead of in-person review; something to which everyone is entitled and for which government agencies in this state cannot charge a fee) for the documents and have received several installments. We intend to publish them for all to see once some technological and ethical matters are settled.

At the current rate at which SPD are doling these public records out, we'll copies of all of them over the next several decades.
Posted by Phil M http://https://twitter.com/pmocek on April 16, 2014 at 3:17 PM · Report this
36
Did Dom write this or did Pugel & Kimerer? While this is a lot of words, I'm not sure it says much more than:
-- "Pugel is still hurt that no one ever trusted or liked him during his career, other than Kimerer
-- The Stranger doesn't like Ed Murray
-- Ann Levinson doesn't like Ed Murray
-- Jenny Durkan likes Ed a lot
-- Harry Bailey is evil
-- SPOG is evil
-- All the career SPD officers and management oppose reform (and thus want to beat up minorities)

Wow. Talk about "Stupid Fucking Incredulous Reporting" (Remember that, Stranger?)

Dom's agenda to rescue Pugel's reputation is a fool's errand. Hmmm, perhaps totally appropriate for Dom, then.


Posted by Blunder on April 16, 2014 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Big Boss 37
Does it really matter all that much? It's a good article and all, but the choice in mayoral candidates is always between someone who thinks the SPD should be free to kill with impunity, and someone who thinks the SPD should be free to kill with impunity but they have to button their jacket differently. FTP.
Posted by Big Boss on April 16, 2014 at 3:24 PM · Report this
38 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Danno Davis 39
Bravo, Dominic.
Posted by Danno Davis on April 16, 2014 at 4:21 PM · Report this
40
@36: Got any factual backing for any problems with the article? Pugel's been borne out by events, and Murray hasn't.

This is a pretty fantastic article Dom.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on April 16, 2014 at 5:57 PM · Report this
DOUG. 41
Chief Bailey is a liar. Murray hasn't fired him. Both need to go. Now.
Posted by DOUG. http://www.dougsvotersguide.com on April 16, 2014 at 8:50 PM · Report this
TCLballardwallymont 42
Christopher Monfort had the only workable plan for SPD reform the city has seen yet.

Good luck with this approach Holden. Every Seattle cop knows they can intimidate, stomp, spray, taze, or shoot you at will and there will be no repercussions, even if it's on video. At worst, the officer will be given *a promotion* to admin & oversight duties - and continue to climb the ranks.

What are you going to do about it? Pointlessly march and yell pointless slogans? Uselessly write articles?

Here's a clue Holden. You aren't going to get what you want from Murray, let alone the SPD.

Grow some balls Holden. Lead the effort to recall Murray, and every politician that stands in the way of real reform. Or continue the ineffectual whining. Whichever best suits you.
Posted by TCLballardwallymont on April 16, 2014 at 9:11 PM · Report this
43
This is a re-hash of past hashes,

There is one priceless line: "The most controversial misconduct case in Murray's nascent term involved me, weirdly enough. "

Yep, weird.
Posted by dullsville dom on April 16, 2014 at 9:13 PM · Report this
44
Keep at it Dominic, the politics of this are nasty. I had some contact with Pugel once before when the SPD was in trouble for use of violence on mentally impaired folks. I found him honest and foresighted about the problems of policing. We lost a good man. Your reporting on the Murray-Durkan relationship has not been reported elsewhere. Of course the stranger is the only newspaper in Seattle.
Posted by castiron on April 16, 2014 at 9:21 PM · Report this
45
@42 - "Christopher Monfort had the only workable plan for SPD reform the city has seen yet."

So the only workable reform plan is to murder a police officer, leaving their spouse a widow and two kids without a dad? You are truly an awful human being.
Posted by Bax on April 16, 2014 at 10:08 PM · Report this
46
Christopher Monfort had the only workable plan for SPD reform the city has seen yet.


Monfort, in case you've forgotten, assassinated a patrol officer in cold blood Halloween 2009. He attempted to fire-bomb the police garage without regard for the innocent maintenance and mechanic crews who work there. While evading capture, he attempted to murder at least two other officers.

When searched after his arrest, officers found his apartment contained enough explosives to kill everyone who lived in his apartment building.


To this day, he denies responsibility for any of his actions.
Posted by six shooter on April 16, 2014 at 10:14 PM · Report this
47
@40... The facts are the facts. Pugel was long ago largely dismissed by people inside and outside of SPD as a lazy cop unwilling to get his hands dirty. Same with Kimerer. Loooong histories of leading from behind. And pushing others aside for their aggrandizement. Fairly well known over the years in SPD and at all levels and in City Hall.

His "purge" last November was seen as just his and Kimerer's logical next step to consolidating the thrown. For those who've read the DOJ and Bobb reports, it's clear that Pugel was using Metz as the patsy...nowhere does either report even suggest he stood in the way of reform. The outcry from all over the city when Pugel dumped Metz - cops and community leaders who hate cops - should have been a clue. Everyone knew what he did and why and it was only a matter of time before someone drew the curtain on his sorry act. Did you notice the deafening silence from those same quarters when Pugel was reassigned? That should speak volumes about the man's reputation in and out of the SPD, the city government and the comminuity groups. He's lucky he at least has Dom, an ill-informed, egotistical pothead to tell his side of the story. Karma, sucks, Jim.
Posted by Blunder on April 16, 2014 at 10:27 PM · Report this
TCLballardwallymont 48
@45 "the only workable plan for SPD reform the city has seen yet."

Yup. Said it, stand by it. I suggested another plan that might be workable, and I await its implementation. In its absence, we are left with the only outlet available to all Americans: resistance to tyranny by *any* means.

Exactly how many people must be killed by the SPD before we respond in kind? Exactly how often do you think SPD officers would stomp on innocent peoples heads and ask them if they heard 'em, homie - if they knew that 10 officers would get their own homie heads stomped on the next night?

You can whine all you want Bax, but you don't have a workable plan - and I do.

I propose the Monfort Citizens Council. No membership, no newsletter, no dues, no bullshit. Simply a 10 to 1 reprisal of SPD misconduct. If the SPD officers don't want their kids to be orphans, or their spouses to be widowers, they can give the same respect to us - and get rid of the officers that don't share the same values.

Whose streets? Our streets! Until the cops come in and break your useless, pointless skulls. If you can't or won't do that math, then you actually don't give a shit about the children or spouses, pal.

Hoping to hear your brilliant plan, expecting it to be more pointless, useless whining.
Posted by TCLballardwallymont on April 16, 2014 at 11:32 PM · Report this
49
WHAT??? Sean Whitcomb is no longer in charge of the outreach stuff??? This is a SHAME! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE A SLOG POST EXPLICITLY POSTING THIS (This is a great article, but what happened to Sean Whitcomb needs more attention). UGH.
Posted by j2patter on April 16, 2014 at 11:38 PM · Report this
50 Comment Pulled
51
Did Holden mention that a cop gave him the stink eye once?
Posted by gfsds on April 17, 2014 at 8:35 AM · Report this
52
@48 -- until you're willing to put on a uniform and represent yourself and your opinions publicly, you're just another loud-mouth security guard who couldn't pass the cop entrance exam.

I'm pretty sure you and I both know how pathetic someone must be to fail the cop entrance exam. I've seen some pretty piss-poor cops. I can't imagine how bad you gotta be if those fat fucks could pass.
Posted by six shooter on April 17, 2014 at 11:38 AM · Report this
53 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
Doctor Memory 54
@48 makes threats on the internet which he will never, ever back up in real life, then claims other people's opinions are pointless/useless.

Hilarious.
Posted by Doctor Memory http://blahg.blank.org on April 17, 2014 at 2:13 PM · Report this
55
Ever tried that "cop entrance exam"? Its malarchy just like the element that it spawns...feckin hopped up, jack the lad, short willied muckers who got beat up on the playground everyday by girls and now have to compensate for that and their small willies by "copping" attitudes with civilians and pushing their psuedo nazi agenda on the masses.
Never been there and done a damn thing when I needed'em and now im being charged and extradited across the USA for having to handle the matter myself (non-violently). Yet, they can haul my ass in and after two hours in handcuffs, lock me in a white cell, with no medications (12.. diabetes, blood pressure,etc..)and no outside commo.. NOPE, not even a phone call. Accountability my ass! Typical of them nazi types, y'know? Fire the lot of'em, hire chimpanzees with banana tazers and red vine hand cuffs...funny wee suits from Archie McPhee..Slainte wa' piggies.. Slainte wa'
Posted by Iancognito on April 18, 2014 at 12:06 AM · Report this
matt 56
I suspect Murray DID know what he was doing - replacing McGinn's people with Murray people, in order to instill loyalty. The reform part is secondary to the Mayor, who needs to establish "his" team of "reformers" first.

Because he is politician first, and mayor second. Because in America, we care more about personal ideals than governing.

Fuck.
Posted by matt on April 18, 2014 at 9:26 AM · Report this
57
This is a great piece - Dom I hope you win a Pulitzer. And thank you Stranger for keeping it front and center - just where it should be - for at least a few days. I echo the sentiments of 56. This isn't just a story about a specific set of questionable circumstances. This is a cautionary tale of politics in America.
Posted by EyeOnAlki on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 AM · Report this
58
@56 - or, alternatively, Murray recognizes the real problem at SPD is a complete lack of leadership and direction at the top. So the way to change that is by changing the people at the top.

Only time will tell if Murray is capable of getting the right people to lead the department. If the next chief is a capable leader, and puts good people in upper echelon positions of authority, everything else will fall into place.
Posted by Bax on April 18, 2014 at 10:41 AM · Report this
Mud Baby 59
"When Joni Balter, a former Seattle Times columnist, asked Murray in a television interview in January who his "best-case scenario kind of candidate" for police chief is after interim chief Bailey steps aside, Murray said, 'Well, um, I am looking for Chief Bailey, actually. You know, if I were to describe somebody, I would describe him.'"

OMFG. It's going to be a long 4 years under Mr. Ed's "leadership."
Posted by Mud Baby on April 19, 2014 at 10:52 AM · Report this
60
From the point of view of a socialist, lets be clear: The police exist to protect capitalism and the 1% .

The Stranger makes it's money by selling advertisements to local businesses and corporations. Its a capitalist newspaper that supports capitalism. Notice how this article (Reform in Reverse: How mayor Ed Murray unraveled two years of police reform in only two months) fails to consider the countless negative effects of capitalism and its relationship to policing in America.

Capitalism requires a lot of force in order to stay afloat. How else would you expect such an unequal society to survive? This is why we have hundreds of military bases occupying foreign countries and here at home, why we have such an extensive law enforcement program, which includes millions of people behind bars or part of the criminal justice probation system - the most of any industrialized nation. The police serve this system well. So the argument about there being "good cops" and "bad cops" goes out the window when you consider law enforcement and its relationship to a capitalist society.

I am someone who has been stopped and harassed by the Seattle police countless times. I expect the level of harassment to get worse in general as the police gain more power through legislation and acquire more sophisticated weapons and tools to monitor the general public. (Hello facial recognition technology.)

It is disappointing that this article failed to mention alternatives to policing. In a socialist society it would look very different indeed and would be community based. (Think block watches on every corner.)

More disappointing, is watching the American public walk down the road to totalitarianism and not offer up any resistance. This requires a broad based people's movement instead of relying on spineless capitalist politicians like Ed Murray to fix the problem.

Until people organize as a class of people and fight this totalitarian state, we can only expect the abuses of the Seattle police to continue.
More...
Posted by doogiekd1 on April 19, 2014 at 2:09 PM · Report this
61
WHAT THE HELL IS IT, that the SPD leadership has that they can whip the pre-district Seattle City Council and no less than the last THREE mayors into line excusing and defending a bigoted, violent, dangerous police department?

The SPD long ago moved away from 'controversial' and 'reactionary' policing, and are now well into ideological positioning that puts them to the right of some of the softer kkk members. I mean, at least the klan isnt out LOOKING FOR minorities and protesters and gay people to assault in most cases. The SPD has made it clear they consider it to be their job to do so.

Voters are going to have to oust EVERY LAST MEMBER Of the old guard city council, and perhaps get a referendum to get rid of Ed "its ok to shoot N****rs and s**cs on site" Murray out of office.
Posted by araucania on April 19, 2014 at 3:58 PM · Report this
62
Dominic, thank you. Ean, I'm sorry you have a short attention span.;-) Editing this down would be an injustice to the truth. I held my nose when I voted for Mayor MCGinn a second time. Now, I know why I wouldn't support Murray. McGinn was a largely incompetent doofus but Murray is proving to be every bit the slick, sleazy, disgusting rat-weasel of a politician and liar I feared he would be. What do we need to do to impeach this schmuck? Unbefuckinglieble. Why is it so hard for Seattle to get the mayor it deserves?!
Posted by X.G. on April 19, 2014 at 8:11 PM · Report this
63
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Seattle is screwed!
Posted by auntie grizelda on April 20, 2014 at 3:00 PM · Report this
AndyBlue 64
The good cops are the ones who said nothing while the union directed fraud against the citizens of Seattle denying us accountability we have been paying for. 25 MILLION dollar fine from the feds, settlement after settlement for abuse and rights violations. Merrick Bobs 18 thousand dollar per month bill. etc. etc. the costs for having a fully corrupt police department never ends

This while closing schools, cutting buses for students and transferring students around the district.

But don't worry, 98 percent of all Seattle cops don't live in Seattle so their kids aren't effected.

So its a win win all around..... right?
Posted by AndyBlue on April 20, 2014 at 9:11 PM · Report this
AndyBlue 65
You can tell which comments are from cops and union reps (cops) having verbal tantrums lashing out at usual. Pathetic creeps.
Posted by AndyBlue on April 20, 2014 at 9:25 PM · Report this
auntie jim 66
Boy was I stupid to endorse Murray! You would think that anybody who has kept up with SPD issues would know that the only way to get any real reform is to bust the SPOG. I remember how they were totally out of control in the 1970s and how The Guild was a scandal even then. Before my day SPD corruption was legendary, Taxi drivers would bribe officers with a bottle of whiskey to look the other way while they bootlegged alcohol to underage sailors, graft was collected from gay establishments etc.
The new policy should be the elimination of the guild and the good old boys from the picture.
Posted by auntie jim http://www.gaysnohomish.org on April 21, 2014 at 8:50 AM · Report this
67
Somehow, I thought (erroneously)-- that Mayor Murray-- having likely been bullied, prejudiced against and had more than his share of struggles as a gay male, would have been somehow less likely to put up with bullshit from abusers of power, bullies etc. WAS I WRONG! Wow. He came to speak where I work during his campaign...and a lot of us noticed his answers were pretty vague on a lot of topics. But, I didn't imagine he's be such an asshole so soon out of the gate. Hugely disappointing.
Posted by anniepants on April 21, 2014 at 8:06 PM · Report this
68
@64 -- you do know that Seattle Public Schools is a completely separate entity from the City of Seattle, right? So anything SPD does has nothing whatsoever to do with Seattle schools.

In other words, derp.
Posted by Bax on April 21, 2014 at 8:26 PM · Report this
AndyBlue 69
#68. It ALL comes from tax payer dollars. You don't know this?
Posted by AndyBlue on April 22, 2014 at 8:05 AM · Report this
wisepunk 70
@52, you I never wanted to try and be a cop, but a friend of mine took the test about 8-9 years ago. Came up to Seattle from the Tri-cities. He had just gotten out of the Marine Corps, was in combat in Iraq, and had spent a few years as a DI. He was so excited after taking the test. "I fucking aced it" he said, and he really did ace it. Top test score in the group, and what did he get for it? He got removed, because they always throw out the top scores in the group. He was too smart to be a cop in Seattle. He is now a cop in Eastern Washington.

Oh sure, they say that too much intelligence in a person means they might move on and not stick with the job very long...but the real reason is that people that test high are also the type that question stupid orders, and when the brass says go out and knock some heads around, they don't want any officers raising their hands and asking "why?"

And I have to agree with Fnarf. I was (and am still to some extent) a cop lover. I have 4 friends who are currently cops, I'm a vet, a home owner, middle class and white. I lost all respect for SPD when the same cop who wanted to visit Dom at work threatened to take me to jail for reporting a dangerous situation. Not for committing a crime, for reporting something to the police. Do nothing wrong and see how you feel when the person who is supposed to be protecting all of us threatens to take away your freedom. At gunpoint. Simply because he can.
Posted by wisepunk on April 22, 2014 at 9:47 AM · Report this
71
Will someone please wake me when we get Seattle back?
I think I just got severely hit in the ass by a stun gun and need to lie down.
Posted by auntie grizelda on April 22, 2014 at 7:14 PM · Report this
72
FREE paper. That's what you write for. I hope you at least get Obama care, cause there is no way you are paid for this trash. And if you are, rest assured it's from the prostition ads in the back. Congrats to you on that! Whiner Seattle hypocrit. Get some accountability.
Posted by Pchutley on April 22, 2014 at 11:46 PM · Report this
rodolfo 73
Great work, Dom. I've never lived in Seattle (or anywhere outside of the Midwest) and I still read the whole damn thing.
Posted by rodolfo on April 23, 2014 at 9:45 PM · Report this
74
If you like this, you will love what he is doing for Neighborhoods. He has an insider/adviser lined up for the DON top job, who has a record of low level corruption in the city's neighborhood council system. It includes hiding minutes, rigging elections, and bullying people in a neighborhood who don't agree with the city hall agenda. Ask around, Dominic, and you will find lots here.
Posted by Murray hires cronies to do his bidding in all places on August 13, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this

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