Interim Chief Harry Bailey just announced on the SPD Blotter that former interim chief Jim Pugel is retiring:

The Seattle Police Department would like to congratulate Assistant Chief Jim Pugel on his retirement. A native son, Chief Pugel grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington. He went on to serve his city for a long and distinguished 31-year career with the Seattle Police Department where he started as a volunteer and tackled a challenging array of assignments during his tenure, including an appointment as Interim Chief.

SPD hopes that in his retirement, Chief Pugel will continue to champion the cause of harm reduction, and that he will have a bit more time to root for his Washington Huskies—especially the rowing program—where he rowed as an undergrad, and now as a member of the Women’s’ and Men’s Rowing Board.

Congratulations, Chief. You’ve earned it.

Harry Bailey
Interim Chief of Police

Pugel is 54. This is not an ordinary retirement, in my opinion. What's happening here is simple, and nobody in Seattle should be fooled.

Pugel led the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program for Seattle, which is an internationally acclaimed program to direct nonviolent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail. That put him, 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. Pugel was praised last year as a leader of reform in a report by the federal court monitor, Merrick Bobb, who is overseeing the settlement to eradicate the patterns of excessive force and racial bias in the SPD. Pugel also refused to reverse misconduct rulings for more than a dozen officers last year that the right-wing police union, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, had persistently tried to settle. (Full disclosure: As I've mentioned before, Pugel was briefly my babysitter at a time I was too young to remember. It's a small town. My only memories of him are in his official capacity at the police department.)

But within eight days of becoming mayor, Ed Murray, who was endorsed by that union, demoted Pugel from the position of interim chief. Pugel was sent to an office on Airport Way South, a location sources in the department have dubbed "Siberia." Pugel's command staff was replaced with the union's henchmen, while other reformers like Assistant Chief Mike Sanford (who was also praised by the monitor) were suddenly announcing "retirement." The new interim chief, Bailey, who wrote the blog post above, is a former vice president of the union, and Bailey promptly capitulated to the union leaders and reversed six misconduct findings in cases where Pugel had stood firm against the union.

Pugel was pushed out, in my opinion.

He embodied reform. He embodied the resistance to the right-wing union (which actually sued to block the reform plan). He embodied progressive policing on drugs, race, and avoiding excessive force. He embodied the progress—and reform—that this administration claims to support but proves it will actually punish.