Mayor-elect Ed Murray has been advised that interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel should be required to step down from the top job if he wants to be considered as a candidate for the permanent position, according to multiple sources who spoke with KING 5 on the condition of anonymity.
The advice to Murray came from organizations with a direct interest in SPD's operations, the sources said. The groups told Murray that it would make it very hard for the city to attract strong candidates from outside Seattle if the established interim chief at SPD was also vying for the job.
Murray will not become mayor until January 1. His communications director, Jeff Reading, told KING 5 that Murray “has not made a decision about whether the person in the interim chief’s role would be considered for a candidate for the permanent position.”
Murray expects to have a news conference announcing his search plans for the new SPD chief on either January 1, his first day in office, or January 2, Reading said.
Bruce Harrell, chairman of the city council committee that oversees SPD, said of the search: "Our goal should be attracting as many qualified chiefs for the position. Based on recent feedback from experts in this field, an established interim police chief applying for the job is a common disincentive for applicants who assume the job is wired. The job is not wired and the best applicant will be chosen."
Pugel has publicly expressed his desire to continue as leader of the Seattle Police Department, most recently in a Nov. 26 interview with KING 5. “I've been here 30 years. I know what needs to be done I have a good relationship with the monitoring team, I believe I have a good relationship with the community as well as with the officers who work for me,” Pugel said.
Reading said Murray will assemble a search committee that is “reflective of the community, but a committee that is manageable.”
Reading would not comment on Pugel’s recent shakeup of senior leadership at SPD. After becoming interim chief last April, Pugel demoted Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer and Deputy Chief Nick Metz to assistant chiefs. Last month, Pugel further demoted Metz to the rank of captain. Another assistant chief, Dick Reed, voluntarily took a demotion to captain.
Calls seeking comment from Chief Pugel were not returned. Calls and emails to the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, which represents the rank and file, and to the Seattle Police Management Association were not returned.