Report: Seattle police cases handled properly

  • Thu Mar 20th, 2014 7:32pm
  • News

Associated Press

SEATTLE — A special review ordered by Mayor Ed Murray has found that Seattle’s interim police chief acted properly when he lifted disciplinary actions against six police officers who had appealed their misconduct cases.

The mayor said in a letter to City Council members Wednesday that it was clear the cases “were handled in a manner consistent with standard practice and the current system,” The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

But the review also revealed “serious flaws” in the disciplinary-appeals process, Murray wrote. So he ordered a broader review of the entire internal-investigation and discipline system.

Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey came under intense public scrutiny last month after he decided to overturn misconduct findings against seven officers, including an incident in which an officer threatened to harass an editor at the weekly newspaper The Stranger last July.

The officer in the journalist’s case was found to have committed misconduct and given a one-day suspension, but Bailey lifted those in favor of imposing additional training requirements. Days later, at the mayor’s direction and after public outcry, Bailey reinstated the misconduct finding against Officer John Marion. The special review found that decision was appropriate.

Bailey, whom Murray appointed in January, left intact his order to lift reprimands and short suspensions imposed on six other officers in 2010 and 2011, saying the reversals had been tentatively approved by his predecessor, former Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel, the newspaper reported.

Murray ordered his special adviser on police issues, Bernard Melekian, to review those six cases to determine if the misconduct findings needed to be reinstated.

Melekian told the Times that although no documentation has been found to show Puget approved the settlements, the former interim police chief first did so at a Sept. 15 meeting.

Melekian said he talked to several people who reported that Pugel had signed off on the settlements as part of an overall review last year of pending appeals. He acknowledged he did not interview Pugel.

Pugel on Wednesday denied that he approved those settlements.

“Any claim that I ‘tentatively’ or otherwise reversed any of the disciplinary decisions that I made, before the current interim chief was appointed, is not true,” Pugel, who is currently an assistant Seattle chief, said in a statement Wednesday to the newspaper. “I did not approve any settlements. There would have been a record.”

Melekian told the Times that Bailey was following longstanding procedures used by previous police chiefs when he reversed the six cases.

Melekian’s report recommended that settlements should not be finalized without agreement from the City Attorney’s Office and that decisions on whether to settle or proceed on an appeals case should be made outside of the police department.