SEATTLE – Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is backing his interim police chief’s decision 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.
In a late Friday news conference, Murray said Interim Chief Harry Bailey made the right decision in one case and simply approved six other actions endorsed by his predecessor.
Murray said Bailey acted appropriately when he reversed the one-day suspension of Officer John Marion, who along with a King County Sheriff’s deputy threatened Dominic Holden, an editor at the Stranger, when he stopped to photograph police activity at a public transit plaza last summer. The sheriff’s deputy, who had a long history of complaints, was later fired.
Bailey’s actions and Murray’s approval of them are raising concerns from a police watchdog and City Council.
In overturning the suspension, the action removed a misconduct finding from the officer’s record.
“While this could be perceived as a lesser punishment under the current legal framework, Chief Bailey believes, and I support him, that the framework for this process is reflective of what is most constructive – training, changing behavior,” Murray said.
Before the news conference, the Seattle Times reported that City Councilmember Tim Burgess sent a letter to Bailey asking for further explanation of the reversal.
All of the misconduct reversals approved by Bailey stemmed from negotiations between the city and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild. Bailey once served with the police guild. The guild also endorsed Murray over previous Mayor Mike McGinn in last year’s election.
A retired judge who oversees Seattle’s police-accountability system said Bailey’s actions raise questions. “Based on what has been made public thus far, this reflects a very serious problem that has the potential to significantly undermine public trust,” Anne Levinson said. “It appears that cases where there was found to be misconduct, and discipline was to have been imposed, have been overturned, not by order of a court or an arbitrator but simply because the officers and the union did not agree with the result.”
Bailey has denied his decisions are “payback” to the union, the Times reported.
“Murray and Bailey, by protecting a bad cop, only further erode the limited trust many citizens have of a department with a pattern of civil rights violations,” Holden told the Associated Press after the news conference.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.