New police chief must follow Seattle process to survive


The Search Committee charged to find a new Seattle police chief is made of 23 people whose backgrounds are as diverse as the population of Seattle itself.
That is a good thing, and will likely mean the search process will flush out any skeletons in any candidate's closet. It also means the new chief will have survived the vaunted Seattle process.
As of this writing, there are 10 candidates to choose from: Rick Braziel, chief of police, Sacramento; Adam Burden II, former assistant chief of police, Miami; Ronald Davis, chief of police, East Palo Alto; John Diaz, interim chief of police, Seattle; Rick Gregory, chief administrative officer/acting public safety director, Castle County, Del.; Clark Kimerer, deputy chief of police, Seattle; Anne Kirkpatrick, chief of police, Spokane; Jim Pugel, assistant chief of police, Seattle; John Romero, chief of police, Lawrence, Mass.; Lisa Womack, former chief of police Elgin Ill.
A quick handicapping of the list provides a few things to consider. Braziel, 50, has been an officer in Sacramento for 30 years and was just named chief there in 2007. He's eligible for retirement - meaning his Seattle presence would be built on an already comfortable pension. We wonder if that's the scenario Seattle needs.
Burden has experience that could translate well in Seattle. His African American heritage might allow him to better build bridges with Seattle's diverse neighborhoods, where there have been long-simmering concerns over the Seattle Police Department and equal enforcement of its policies. But Burden just retired in February. How much does he really want back in the game? Not so much as it turns out. On Thursday, May 6, Burden withdrew his name from the running citing a recent surgery was preventing him from giving his all to the interview process.
Seattle's issues are not necessarily East Palo Alto's issues, an impoverished and crime-ridden city outside the south San Francisco Bay Area, and that may hurt Davis' chances. But he is an expert in police reform and that may keep him in the running. John Diaz has been minding the Seattle Police Department since Gil Kerlikowske's departure last year. And while his tenure has no major blemishes, his appointment would signal satisfaction with the status quo. Is that the most desirable outcome? The same question may plague Kimerer and Pugel.
Gregory, 47, has worked closely with Homeland Security, which could help his chances in a port city like Seattle. Then there's Anne Kirkpatrick, chief of police in Spokane. Kirkpatrick joined the Spokane department as chief in 2006 and was police chief in Ellensburg and Federal Way prior to that. She knows Washington and has years of experience, but her recent bout with police unions and administrative mis-steps regarding disciplinary procedures in her department won't play well in Seattle.
Former police chief of Elgin, Ill., Lisa Womack, 44, may have too much baggage and not enough big-city experience to take on the job. She's been taken to task by the local newspaper in Elgin for lack of public involvement and spending time away to attend conferences and meetings. She resigned under pressure from Elgin's city council over, it was reported, a "personal issue." With that kind of baggage, one wonders why she's being considered at all.
The final candidate is John Romero, chief of police in Lawrence, Mass. Romero, a New York City native who trained with the FBI in Quantico, Va., has been the chief of police in Lawrence since 1999. While his tenure is credited for reducing crime in Lawrence by 40 percent, Seattle, with a diverse population of nearly 600,000, more than five times that of Lawrence, presents a very different challenge. Romero doesn't come with a squeaky clean bill of health, either: The ACLU has accused the Lawrence police force of brutality while under Romero's charge.
Whichever candidate the Search Committee chooses (the final three will be announced next week) it must be someone who, above all else, can negotiate Seattle's process-heavy ways. Only then can a new chief get some work done.[[In-content Ad]]