Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey
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  • Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey
As was widely reported in advance yesterday, Mayor Ed Murray this morning named a new interim police chief, Harry Bailey, a 35-year Seattle Police Department veteran and McGinn police advisor who Murray stressed has "no interest" in the role of permanent chief. Jim Pugel, serving as interim until now, will return to the rank of assistant chief under Bailey.

Even more interesting, especially since the Bailey announcement was leaked, was Murray's pronouncement that he's setting a timeline to name a new permanent police chief by April 2014. That's just a goal, he said, but since Seattle can be "a little process-obsessed... We need a timeline, even if it slips." But it's a pretty bold goal, given that McGinn took at least 6 months to appoint John Diaz interim chief.

How will Murray's process be twice as efficient? Calling it a "bifurcated" process, he says there will be two committees working concurrently on the search: One will be a large committee whose job is to get public feedback on "what the community is looking for" in a new chief; the second, smaller committee will work with a search firm to conduct a national search for candidates. Heading up both these committees are co-chairs Pramila Jayapal (founder of immigrant advocacy organization OneAmerica) and Ron Sims (former King County executive and HUD secretary under Obama). The mayor's office is offering a fun flow chart of the process right here.

He also appointed a permanent executive director of the city's Community Police Commission, which was created as part of the settlement agreement. That'll be Fe Lopez, former president of the Latino/a Bar Association of Washington.

So: What the hell does all this mean?

It's not entirely clear. The idea that Pugel might step down since he wants to be considered for the chief job and Murray has said he won't consider the interim has been floated for a while; Dominic reported on it in December. But while Murray kept reiterating today that this move is "no reflection on Jim Pugel or his work," he couldn't elaborate on why, exactly, Pugel needs replacing. "Currently, the hiring process and the consent decree are on a collision course with each other," he said, adding that this change will "straighten out both paths." But WTF does he mean by that? He couldn't quite explain, saying only that "We have significant issues that we need to address," that the interim chief needs to make "controversial" decisions, that having someone be sitting interim while applying for the permanent position could "potentially damage that person's career" and "wouldn't be fair to that person."

Asked about concerns that this could pose a leadership problem—switching to a new interim chief who's guaranteed to be gone in a matter of months doesn't seem like the best way to offer strong, independent leadership on immediately implementing reform—Murray reminded us that he's the commander in chief here, and he'll be guiding the department himself, thankyouverymuch.

One last note about Bailey: As vice president of the police officers union, he was once part of a lawsuit against citizens who made complaints about officers. In today's meeting, he said he only "vaguely" remembered the suit, saying it was about "frivolous lawsuits against police officers."