City Councilman Tim Burgess has a lengthy piece over on Crosscut about the importance—and weird history—of the police chief position in Seattle:
Forty-five individuals have served as police chief in Seattle. All kinds of shenanigans surrounded some of them. City Councilmember Bertha Knight Landes — who later served as Seattle’s first and only woman mayor — booted Police Chief W. B. Severyns from office in 1924 when she was acting mayor. Severyns got his job back seven days later when Mayor Edwin Brown returned to the city. In 1934, Mayor Charles Smith appointed himself as police chief, but that experiment lasted only two months when cooler heads prevailed and Walter Kirtley became chief.
Today, the typical length of service for a major city police chief in the United States is only about 3.5 years. Seattle’s most recent chiefs bucked that trend. Gil Kerlikowske served nine years until he left in 2009 to become director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Stamper served six years prior to him. Patrick Fitzsimons — Seattle’s longest serving chief and likely the most beloved and respected — held the position 15 years, from 1979 through 1994.
What are the critical challenges our new police chief faces?