Sep 20, 2022 - News

Seattle mayor appoints Adrian Diaz as new police chief

A police leader in a short-sleeved uniform shirt speaks at a podium.
Adrian Diaz speaks at a press conference in August 2020. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Seattle has gone two years without a permanent police chief, but it's about to have a new top cop.

Driving the news: Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced Tuesday that he is appointing Adrian Diaz to become the city's permanent chief of police.

  • Diaz has already been serving as the department's interim chief since September 2020, after ex-chief Carmen Best resigned.

Why it matters: Should Diaz's appointment be confirmed by the City Council, he will command an agency that remains under federal oversight, after a 2011 investigation found a pattern of Seattle officers using excessive force.

Background: Before becoming Seattle's interim chief, Diaz served as the department's deputy chief as well as assistant chief of its collaborative policing bureau.

  • He began his policing career in Seattle more than two decades ago as a patrol officer, according to the mayor's office.

Details: Diaz beat out two other finalists for the permanent position: Eric Greening, an assistant chief in the Seattle Police Department, and Kevin Hall, an assistant police chief in Tuscon.

  • The mayor's pick of Diaz comes at the end of a nationwide search that began in April.

What they're saying: At a press conference Tuesday, Diaz said he wants to continue reforms that have helped the department make progress under federal oversight.

  • He emphasized his support for alternatives to armed police responses, such as deploying teams of mental health professionals and partnering with community groups.
  • "The police can't solve every problem," Diaz said.
  • At the same time, Diaz said the city must address a recent rise in crimes such as robbery and assault.

Between the lines: Diaz has been blunt this year in saying Seattle's police department needs hundreds more officers to do its work effectively.

  •  In May, he told Axios he thinks the department needs a minimum of 1,400 officers.
  • The department had only 956 deployable officers as of mid-year, according to a recent report to a City Council committee.

Flashback: Best, Diaz's predecessor, resigned as chief amid criticism of Seattle police officers' handling of the 2020 racial justice protests.

  • During demonstrations, police used tear gas and other force to quell activists and abandoned the East Precinct. The city allowed protesters to take over six square blocks of Capitol Hill for weeks.
  • Best cited a push by the City Council to reduce funding for the police department as a key reason for leaving.
  • But some of the City Council's plans to lay off officers never materialized.
  • A large part of the funding cuts to the department since 2020 came from moving parking enforcement and 911 dispatching to other agencies, along with savings from officer attrition.

What's next: A majority of the City Council must sign off on Diaz's appointment. It isn’t clear when the council's confirmation vote will take place.

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