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Head of Seattle police mocks homeless in 1986 video

Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel (far right) is among the officers who appeared in a newly released 1986 video mocking the homeless. (SPD video)

Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel apologized Thursday for his role in a video produced by the department in 1986 that mocked the city’s homeless population.

The video, titled “Under the Viaduct,” was released to Real Change and The Stranger in the interest of full transparency, according to Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. No media outlets requested the video, he said.

The video is a parody of The Drifters’ 1964 hit “Under the Boardwalk” and features Seattle police officers in the role of homeless inebriates. It was included in a training video that was briefly released, then retracted by the department in 1989.

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the video in question was not meant to have training value, but was an attempt to keep officers’ attention.

Lyrics in the video include, “Under the viaduct, we’ll be drinking our booze. Under the viaduct, our sores continue to ooze. Under the viaduct, we’ll be breaking out glass. Under the viaduct, the cops are kicking our ass.”

Chief Pugel, who was a 26-year-old officer when the video was filmed, portrays a homeless man who swigs alcohol, vomits and breaks the window out of a car parked under the viaduct. He is wearing sweatpants, a brown sweater and his face is covered in coffee grounds to imitate a beard.

Pugel was named interim police chief earlier this month after Chief John Diaz announced his retirement.

“I was asked if there was anything out there that could embarrass the department or the profession, and certainly this is something that does,” he said.

In 1989, Pugel said he and others were “severely reprimanded” for their role in the video by Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons, who ordered that copies of the video be destroyed.

“I sincerely apologize, but most importantly I apologize to all those people I serve, to those I work with on a daily basis in the community and I just ask their forgiveness,” he said.

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