Chris Bailey, former King County Prosecuting Attorney

Chris Bailey
Chris Bailey

March 24th our speaker was Chris Bayley, former King County Prosecuting Attorney.  He recounted how he created a justice model that has showed how the office is to be run. His reforms endure to the present day.

He is an advocate of strong relationships between the justice system and the community. Had his model been in place, the police shooting tragedies in the US would not have resulted in unrest and violence.

He traced the history of vice-related corruption, wherein brothels, liquor, and gambling had been allowed to flourish through a system of payoffs. Thus, licenses were continuously renewed. This Tolerance Policy went on for some 30 years. The City Council Licensing Committee, if not paid off, would harass the entrepreneurs. Thus, the pinball-punch card-pull-tab illegal industries made millions and averaged a yearly $500K in revenue to the city. The police vice squad payoff system grew. The Tolerance Policy was, in fact, public endorsement of municipal corruption.

In the middle ’60s, Bayley and other reformers began a campaign to elect different council members. US Attorney Pitkin took office, but could enforce only federal, not state law. Bayley, in some interesting political machinations and confrontations, scored an upset with a narrow victory and became Prosecuting Attorney for King County. He reformed the office and, as he stated it, drove a stake through the police corruption system. His predecessor, KCPA Carroll, had not prosecuted important violations, but trivial ones. This changed. Favorable treatment came to an end. The law began to be applied equally to everyone, including prominent offenders. Police departments were made to behave. The office was thus professionalized.

Comment: It is probable that, elsewhere, corruption exists. It is hoped that similar reformers will enter those arenas as well.

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