John Diaz – Seattle, Washington’s New Police Chief

The Brass Key | August 10, 2010 | Comments (0)

Prior to the unanimous vote, more than a half dozen people spoke against Diaz, saying he hadn’t and wouldn’t do enough to foster better relations with the city’s African Americans.

Diaz, the interim chief, was chosen by Mayor Mike McGinn to head the department after a months-long search. Diaz is the first permanent chief appointed from within the ranks of the Seattle department since Robert Hanson, who served from 1974 to 1978. He becomes the 46th police chief in the city’s history.

Councilman Tim Burgess, chairman of the Public Safety committee, said the council expects Diaz to focus on four areas:

  • Reducing crime.
  • Implementing a “de-escalation” plan for possible conflicts between officers and citizens.
  • Setting a high bar for police conduct.
  • And building public confidence through better disclosure of information.

“When accomplished, they will strengthen our department and build the peace,” Burgess said. “We look forward to working with you.”

Councilman Bruce Harrell encouraged Diaz to work to gain the trust of Seattle’s neighborhood and minority communities.

“I want you to succeed, I want our city to succed,” Harrell said.

A San Francisco native whose parents emigrated from Mexico, Diaz started as a Seattle officer in 1980. He has worked in gang and violent crime sections, narcotics, and the Internet crimes against children unit. Before becoming interim chief, Diaz was a deputy chief overseeing the operations bureau. He’s also worked as a sergeant, lieutenant and captain in the East Precinct.

Diaz, 52, has faced criticism from some community leaders after video from an April incident showed two police officers stomping on a detained man who was later released from a robbery investigation scene. One of those involved, a gang unit detective, told the man he would “beat the (expletive) Mexican piss” out of him. There was a later videotaped incident where an officer punched a young African American woman who had physically confronted the office during a jaywalking stop. The woman later apologized.

Diaz studied society and justice at the University of Washington and received his associate degree in law enforcement from San Francisco’s Skyline College. He’s also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Senior Management Institute for Police at Boston University.

In March 2009, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels named Diaz as interim successor to Chief Gil Kerlikowske, who is now director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. At a news conference that month, Nickels called Diaz a “natural fit for this time — this difficult time we’re going through as a community and as a nation.”

Related Stories

(Seattle Times 8/9/10) City Council confirms Diaz as Seattle’s new police chief
( Chief Diaz’s Statement
(Seattle Times 3/6/09) Diaz named interim Seattle police chief

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Category: The New Chief

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