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Tuesday, February 8, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Chief didn't violate policy by leaving his gun in car

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle Police Department spokesman said Chief Gil Kerlikowske did not violate department policy by leaving his personal gun underneath his driver's-side seat while he shopped with his wife the day after Christmas.

When Kerlikowske returned about five hours later, his 9-mm Glock semi-automatic had been stolen from his unmarked police car, a Ford Crown Victoria.

"The fact of the matter is that we had in the city of Seattle 58 guns stolen out of cars in 2004," said police spokesman Sean Whitcomb. "The chief is chagrined, but unfortunately, these type of crimes are not uncommon."

Kerlikowske declined to comment about the incident.

According to police, here is what happened: About 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, Kerlikowske and his wife had just parked the car at Sixth Avenue and Olive Street so they could shop at the Pacific Place mall in downtown Seattle, Whitcomb said.

The car was on the west side of the street, according to the police report.

Kerlikowske was wearing his loaded pistol in a holster, but decided to put them both underneath the driver's-side seat because he didn't want to carry the weapon inside under his coat, Whitcomb said.

Kerlikowske then walked away and thought he pushed the remote-lock device on the car, Whitcomb said. It's possible the locking device didn't activate, Whitcomb said.

Kerlikowske and his wife returned to the car about 3:30 p.m., Whitcomb said. The gun was gone.

There was no sign of forced entry on the car. Nothing was taken except the gun.

"There is certainly the possibility that someone saw the chief, recognized him and decided to break into his car and look for something," Whitcomb said.

The Police Department's manual states in section 1.153V ("Off-Duty Firearms"):

"Officers are expected at all times to take appropriate action to protect people and property.

"When within the City, or when acting as an agent of the City outside the territorial limits of the City of Seattle, officers shall be armed with a Department approved firearm.

"Officers participating in activities that make it impractical, unsafe or unwise to be armed are exempt from this policy. Examples are: sporting events, family activities or social events where alcohol is being consumed, etc."

Kerlikowske's gun, which has not turned up, has been registered in the department's stolen-gun database. There are no suspects.

The department is researching whether to install gun safes in unmarked police cars.

Whitcomb said there will be no follow-up investigation into Kerlikowske's actions.

As to whether Kerlikowske has a greater responsibility to keep track of his gun because he is the police chief, Whitcomb said there were more than 13,000 car prowls in the city last year.

"He is a public figure so when these type of things happen to public figures, there is a greater amount of scrutiny," he said. "But even people who are public figures can become crime victims."

Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or mko@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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