Saturday, November 3, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Assistant chief retiring for Sonics security job

Seattle Times staff reporter

At the end of his first week as a Seattle police officer, Harry Bailey had second thoughts.

The man with a one-time goal of becoming a Southern Baptist preacher was overwhelmed by the number of murders, assaults and robberies that plagued his Rainier Valley beat. Still, he stuck with the job for nearly 37 years.

But now he is finally leaving the department to be the one-man security force for the Seattle Sonics.

When Bailey, 63, retires Friday, he will start working as the full-time head of security for the NBA team. Bailey has already taken a jump start, working with the team for two games — against Denver and Phoenix — coordinating security for players, coaches and staff, said Tom Savage, team spokesman.

"Mr. Bailey has worked in the community, and if you are going to give anybody an award, he deserves it," said Chris H. Bennett, of Seattle, chairman of the Seattle Medium newspaper. "Every young person should admire him."

Bailey said he entered talks with his new employers last week and handed in his retirement paperwork within days. He said he originally planned to retire next year.

"This is the only job I really know because I have done it my whole life," Bailey said Friday.

Bailey was hired by the city in 1971, after two years working as a "police trainee" at the department. The Birmingham, Ala., native had moved to Seattle in the 1960s after being stationed at Fort Lewis.

Growing up in the South, Bailey was a civil-rights activist who was arrested during a protest featuring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bennett said. Bailey said he had aspirations to be a preacher, not a police officer.

After seven years working as a patrolman in the South Precinct, Bailey worked in the traffic unit and as a robbery and narcotics detective before becoming an assistant police chief in 2001.

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said he's "heartbroken" that Bailey is leaving.

"We're all happy for him that he is going to go on to a new adventure," Kerlikowske said. "I know Harry has had a number of offers from the private sector over the last several years."

Kerlikowske said it might be months until someone is appointed to Bailey's job.

Kerlikowske said Bailey, the highest-ranking African-American officer in the department, is "joined at the hip to the community." Bennett, of the Seattle Medium, attributes this to Bailey's "input and sensitivity."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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