The Seattle Times profiles John Diaz, 52, who named interim chief just over a year ago when Gil Kerlikowske left to become President Obama’s drug czar. Diaz is one of three finalists for the permanent job as Seattle’s top cop. In his 30 years with the department, Diaz has been tasked with some of the toughest assignments – and he’s made plenty of unpopular decisions.
Of his own reputation in disciplinary matters, Diaz recently told a room full of journalists: “In the department, some people believe I’m too harsh. I believe I’m firm and I’m fair.” In the 13 months Diaz has led the department, he’s faced a career’s worth of crises. He fired an officer for lying and, after his decision was overturned by a commission, took the rare step of filing an appeal in court. There was the hunt for, and eventual capture of, a serial arsonist. That was followed by the fatal shooting of an officer and the wounding of his partner Halloween night. Just before his final interview with members of a police-chief search committee, video footage of a gang detective and a patrol officer kicking a Latino man and using ethnically inflammatory language surfaced. Diaz has been both blasted and commended for his handling of an incident that’s stirred tension between police and the city’s minority communities.