Update: Seattle to get a new police chief; John Diaz retiring

(Screengrab from Seattle Channel substituted when briefing ended; we’ll replace later with archived video)
10:49 AM: The formal announcement is expected within a few hours, but now several citywide news sources are reporting that Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is stepping down after almost four years (as interim and then permanent chief). Our partners at The Seattle Times quote City Councilmember Bruce Harrell as the source, as does KING 5; Diaz’s departure was first reported on Twitter by KIRO TV. All say that Assistant Chief Jim Pugel (at left in WSB file photo by Christopher Boffoli) will serve as interim chief.

11:15 AM: The mayor and police chief are planning an 11:30 a.m. briefing. (added) You’ll be able to watch the live webcast above.

11:49 AM: The briefing has begun – click “play” on the video window above to see it live.

12:00 PM: Chief Diaz recounted department accomplishments during his tenure and offered words of thanks. Now the mayor is speaking, and doing the same. Some of the major incidents mentioned as happening during the chief’s tenure included the murder of West Seattle High School graduate Officer Timothy Brenton and the Café Racer/downtown murders that ended with the killer’s West Seattle suicide last May.

12:08 PM: Assistant Chief Jim Pugel says he “promise(s) to continue to work … with everyone who has an interest in seeing Seattle as an even better and even safer city” while serving as interim chief. He also thanks SPD officers and community members for their role in that. After brief remarks, the mayor is asked “Why now?” and he punts the question to Chief Diaz, saying it was his decision. Diaz subsequently says that he evaluated issues such as innovation and reform, and he felt they are under control, and that things are “going extremely well,” so he decided “It was time” for him to retire. So why not wait till after this fall’s mayoral election? McGinn is asked. He replied that the search process will take so long, he doubts “any final decisions” would be made until after November.

12:28 PM: The briefing is over. Chief Diaz’s retirement is scheduled for the end of May. We’re taking down the video window but will re-add the archived version when it’s available on the city website. Meantime, the official news release has arrived via e-mail – click ahead to read it:

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz announced his retirement today after 36 years in law enforcement, 33 of those years as a member of the Seattle Police Department.

Assistant Chief Jim Pugel of the Criminal Investigations Bureau will be the acting Interim Chief upon Chief Diaz’s departure at the end of May.

“After 36 years in policing, I look forward personally and professionally to retirement. Now is the right time. Crime in Seattle is down 11 percent compared with four years ago; the Department is in the midst of developing and implementing innovative programs that will help us face the challenges of 21st century policing; and we have built a solid foundation and are on a strong path to reform that will restore community trust and confidence in our Department. I can’t think of a better time to pass this responsibility to a new Chief, nor can I think of a more capable person to hand it to than Jim Pugel,” said John Diaz.

“John Diaz has been in charge of the department during a period of transition, and his achievements during this period have been considerable,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “First, crime is down. Violent crime is down 2 percent and major property crime is down 12 percent since he took control of the department. Major crime in our City is now at a 55 year low. The department has adopted new innovative practices in a way that it has never done before. And John worked hard to implement needed reforms called for in our Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice. I thank John Diaz for his service.”

Assistant Chief Jim Pugel has spent the last several years the head of Homicide, CSI, Sexual Assault/Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Vice/High Risk Victims, Major Crimes Task Force, Fraud/Forgery/Financial Exploitation, Auto Theft and Forensic Support Services. He has been the lead representative in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, a partnership with the ACLU and other agencies to offer low-level drug offenders with treatment as opposed to jail. He has also developed and leads the Force Investigation Team, an effort designed to track and review police use of force to ensure that our practices are consistent with training and policy.

Jim Pugel is a native Seattleite and University of Washington graduate. He still lives in the city he serves.

“I am pleased that Jim Pugel will serve as interim chief while we begin the process called for in the City Charter for selecting and appointing a new permanent chief,” said McGinn. “I meet several times a month with the command staff. I have had the opportunity to spend time with Jim, and I have come to appreciate his directness, honesty, integrity and progressive thinking. I am confident that Jim will uphold public safety in Seattle during the police chief search process and that he will keep our reform work on track.”

The Seattle Police Department has achieved much over the last four years.


SPD MHP – In a time when mental health treatment opportunities are eroding away, we have integrated a full time Mental Health Professional into the department to identify those in need of service, perform street assessments and rout those people to services quickly in order to increase their chances of successful treatment.
Crisis Intervention training – To date, 410 officers have gone though this nationally recognized training program.
Online Police Reports/Crime Mapping – In an effort to make crime data more accessible to the general public, police reports and 911 responses are now available online. Additionally, all 911 calls are tweeted with our Tweets by Beat program.
If Project – The If Project continues to bring its message of hope and redemption to communities across our state. There is no program like it in law enforcement.
Social Media – SPD continues to be a national leader in police communications with nearly 30,000 followers on twitter.
Living Room Conversations – This program brings patrol officers to your living room to answer your questions and address your concerns, offering Seattle residents a chance to connect with those that serve them. To date, 1240 people have attended 94 of these intimate neighborhood gatherings.

Crime Fighting

Crime is down – Total Major Crimes are down 11 percent compared to four years ago.
911 response time – This metric remains on average 7 minutes for priority 0 and 1 calls. This is the goal set forth in the Neighborhood Policing Plan.
Proactive Time – Patrol officers have 30 percent of their shift available to spend on problem solving, also a goal set forth in the Neighborhood Policing Plan.
VPEP – Overtime patrols in response to a wave of gun violence in 2012 added resources to each precinct to preserve the peace and suppress illegal activities.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children – We have focused our Vice/HRV efforts to rescue children who have been coerced via violence and deception into prostitution.
Hiring – In addition to filling existing vacancies, we are hiring an additional 20 police officers.
Who Killed Me campaign – Billboards and bus ads were designed with the support of community members, Department of Justice and local media to bring attention to unsolved homicide cases.


20/20: A Vision for the Future – This ambitious effort is nearly complete. The 20/20 initiatives are a solid foundation for our department as we embrace 21st Century policing.

Reorganization – The Department has just reorganized to streamline and support the reforms outlined in the monitoring plan.

Satisfaction surveys – In the latest survey conducted by the University of Washington, officers responding to calls scored 4.7 out of 5 for being professional and courteous. Overall, the Department scored 4.5 out of 5 for a satisfactory experience during any SPD contact.

Race and Social Justice Training – All employees will have completed Race: The Power of Illusion training by the end of the year.

14 Replies to "Update: Seattle to get a new police chief; John Diaz retiring"

  • jiggers April 8, 2013 (11:04 am)

    The heat in the kitchen is at an all time high. SPD is in such a big mess and out of control.

  • DWS April 8, 2013 (11:20 am)

    To quote a previous reply,”it’s going to be a LONG summer”.

  • rockergirl5678 April 8, 2013 (11:39 am)

    I know the local anti crime officers have been busier than ever busting criminals and dealing with the increasing demand for there services in our area. They are under tremendous pressure and stress working long hours and there is definitely not enough officers to deal with all the crap going on in this city. I hope whoever is selected as the new chief is prepared to deal with all that is going on and get the rampant crime under control.

  • Bye April 8, 2013 (12:24 pm)

    It’s not out of control. Diaz was never the right fit he was the ‘safe’ easily controlled fit. Just maybe after 36 years even he saw the lies and power grabs going on. Just watch what comes down the pike now. The bummer is that McGinn is going to be a part if the choosing which does no one any good. The public needs to know what a hatchet job the dept of Justice did and is doing to this city. Maybe after the $10+ million dollar price tag comes into the City everyone will look and see that the DOJ is doing this all over the country – making money off of police departments. A statistics professor at Seattle U went through every single document and use of force to try and document the Dept of Justices findings since the DOJ refused to show how they arrived at their data that said a ‘pattern and practice of excessive force’ at the erroneous number of 20 percent and this professor found that according to the DATA it was less than 2 percent. We are being lied to. This is dirty politics like everything else. The next chief will be an even bigger puppet who will continue to throw the dept. down the drain. We all lose.

  • stephanie April 8, 2013 (12:57 pm)

    I knew this would happen. They should have picked the East Palo Alto (CA) police chief Davis. East PA used to be a very scary place not too long ago. Scarier than San Jose (which is more scary than any of our areas). Pick someone that will DO something instead of someone that is good for PR.

  • flyonthewall April 8, 2013 (1:12 pm)

    Bye –

    The DOJ didn’t randomly select Seattle to target for excessive use of force – it was CALLED here by 13 separate groups in the city whose constituents were being profiled and victimized time and time again. As far as I’m concerned – one incident of excessive force is too much. Add to that the allegations of corruption, such as mass deleting of video material that could have substantiated even more of the DOJ’s findings. So I take the SU professor’s re-analysis with a grain of salt.

    Diaz should have been fired a long time ago. After 36 years he IS part of the problem and should have never been elevated to Chief in the first place. Let’s face it – even when excessive use of force has been clearly documented, he has done nothing to those officers involved. If I were Chief, they would be fired on the spot. Let’s get a Chief that stands up to the Union and insists on Constitutional and professional conduct from his officers at ALL times.

  • Jiggers April 8, 2013 (1:28 pm)

    Bye……The SPD is out of control when you have the U.S. Department of Justice investigating serious accusations.

  • JG April 8, 2013 (2:13 pm)

    Diaz was a bad, and probably lazy, choice from the jump. I agree with Sephanie that guy from East Palo Alto would have been a much better choice. If nothing else he was very involved in working with the justice department on police reform.

  • Gene April 8, 2013 (2:40 pm)

    McGinn may get to choose another Police Chief now-but if he is not re-elected the new Mayor will be able to make a change.

    • WSB April 8, 2013 (3:00 pm)

      We haven’t added the councilmembers’ various “reaction” links yet but it should be noted that one of the two councilmembers running for mayor, Tim Burgess, had already publicly said he would make a change if elected. – TR

  • West Seattle Hipster April 8, 2013 (4:54 pm)

    Diaz and his handlers put an interesting spin on his term as Chief. Despite his “accomplishments”, I sure feel a lot less safer than I did 5 or 10 years ago.

    By and large I feel our police force do an excellent job. However, the courts and justice system is in need of a serious overhaul.

    Glad to see Diaz go, I will be even happier to see McGinn leave.

  • Bye April 8, 2013 (9:44 pm)

    I’m not justifying acts done wrong by Spd. But their claim of 1 in 5 incidents being a use of force is dead wrong. They were invited here but the city was forced into a consent decree ‘or get sued’.

    Thomas Perez is quoted as saying “The Justice Department is Open for Business” after Pres. Obama made police reform one of their initiatives.
    I’m simply saying there is an agenda whether right of wrong (wrong data on uses of force) to make examples of depts. and find ones that fit the bill then charge the city for the work by force. And weak leadership and not standing up for the truth and demanding how statistically data was magically drawn up was wrong. We have been mislead.

    From dept. of justice website:
    Consistent with the President’s promise, moreover, the Civil Rights Division already has started to increase its enforcement activities in two key areas: combating police misconduct and filings as amicus curiae. The Department has initiated two significant “pattern or practice police” misconduct investigations since January 21. On March 11, the Civil Rights Division initiated a pattern or practice investigation of the Inglewood, California Police Department, which will review allegations of excessive force, including deadly force. One day earlier, the Division announced its investigation into allegations that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona is engaging in a pattern or practice of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures. By comparison, between 2001 and 2008, the Civil Rights Division, on average, opened three pattern or practice police investigations per year.“In case you haven’t heard, the Civil Rights Division is once again open for business,” Perez told a police oversight association last September, pointedly adding, “There were very few [pattern and practice] cases during the prior administration.”

    Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the ACLU of Washington, tells me Perez came to Seattle last fall to meet informally with civil rights attorneys in the city and seek feedback and input. “My sense is that when Tom Perez came in, the entire attitude and approach changed,” Shaw says.

  • CR April 9, 2013 (8:34 am)

    Flyonthewall and the rest,

    It’s really easy to sit and judge the performance of a job that is one of the most dangerous and difficult when you most likely don’t have the gumption to do it yourself. Really easy to be an armchair quarterback.

  • West Seattle since 1979 April 9, 2013 (2:29 pm)

    Bye, just because this administration is more likely to start these types of investigations than the previous one doesn’t make it right or wrong, just as it doesn’t make the previous administration’s actions in these kind of cases right or wrong.

Sorry, comment time is over.