Seattle Police Department chief John Diaz has had a rough year. Several high-profile-use-of-force incidents and allegations of racial bias led to a Department of Justice investigation and the appointment of an outside monitor to oversee SPD policies. Yet so far just one candidate in this fall’s mayoral race, city council member Tim Burgess, has called unequivocally for the chief’s head, telling us last November that “the first step” he’d take at the department would be to axe Diaz.
State senator Ed Murray, another contender, won’t go quite that far, but he did say that one of his first moves as mayor would be to ask “the chief and all the department heads to offer their resignations so we could reevaluate.” And although he calls Diaz “a strong leader,” council member Bruce Harrell has proposed legislation that would submit the police chief to reconfirmation by the council every four years.
Diaz has his supporters, though: Mayor Mike McGinn, who appointed Diaz, defends his chief. Speaking to us in February, the mayor accused his opponents of “playing politics with public safety.” And at least one other contender, former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, agrees with him; asked about Burgess’s call for Diaz’s resignation, he said, “You don’t persecute people publicly for political and personal gain.”
Published: April 2013