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‘Appearance of segregation’ at Seattle Police Department, captain says in lawsuit

caption: Adrian Diaz answers questions during a press conference where he was announced by Seattle mayor Bruce Harrell as the new permanent Seattle Police Chief on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at Seattle City Hall.
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Adrian Diaz answers questions during a press conference where he was announced by Seattle mayor Bruce Harrell as the new permanent Seattle Police Chief on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at Seattle City Hall.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle Police Captain Eric Greening filed a lawsuit against Chief Adrian Diaz on Monday, alleging that Diaz discriminated against women and people of color at the department.

Greening also claims that Diaz retaliated against him for bringing issues of bias to the chief’s attention, despite Greening being in a position that required him to do so.

Greening, a Black man, has been with Seattle Police for nearly 30 years. He previously held the role of assistant chief, intermittently served as acting chief, and was a finalist for the role of police chief before Mayor Bruce Harrell chose Diaz for the job.

He’s also the third former assistant chief to accuse Diaz of racist and sexist behavior in lawsuits. Diaz demoted all three former assistant chiefs prior to their legal claims. Former Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak settled for $600,000 in 2023.

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Additionally, four female cops notified Diaz last month that they plan to sue, alleging sex discrimination, harassment, and grooming.

Ted Buck, Diaz's personal attorney, has repeatedly denied previous claims that Diaz is sexist and said that allegations leveled against him are unfounded. Buck did not respond to a request for comment by publication time on Monday.

This latest lawsuit paints the chief as unwilling to hear sincere advice, even from Greening, a longtime colleague. Greening’s claims echo a warning police have shared amongst themselves since 2020, when Diaz took power: Don’t disagree with the chief, or you may face retaliation.

Greening claims Diaz harmed his reputation, caused him shame and embarrassment, and diminished future career prospects. He now has trouble sleeping and is anxious about further retaliation from Diaz, his attorney Toby Marshall wrote in the lawsuit.

“He feels humiliated,” Marshall wrote.

A spokesperson with Seattle Police wrote in an email that the department is "absolutely committed to equity and inclusion" in the workplace.

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office declined to comment for this story.

‘Appearance of segregation’

According to the lawsuit, in September 2021, Greening told Diaz that the department discriminated against female and BIPOC officers by assigning them to community outreach work, but not their white male colleagues.

At the time, Greening led the Collaborative Policing Bureau — a department that leads community outreach — and sat on a race and social justice team. In these roles, Greening was expected to raise racism and gender bias issues to Diaz and propose solutions.

Greening told the chief he worried about “the appearance of segregation” within the department, and about “cultural taxation,” which is extra work placed on underrepresented groups pertaining to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Greening raised concerns about discrimination again, when he was interviewed as part of a complaint filed by former Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak in November 2021.

Hirjak alleged Diaz and the department treated him differently because of his race, and retaliated against him. Greening said Hirjak received fewer resources and support as incident commander, compared to his white colleagues, and that Hirjak and other female and BIPOC command staff members were left out of decision making.

Two months later, in January 2022, Greening told Diaz that he believed he, the chief, discriminated against Black supervisors by circumventing them and making direct requests to their subordinates — including his own.

In the same meeting, Diaz, according to the lawsuit, said he’d heard rumors about “the good old boys” in command staff.

According to the lawsuit, “Greening responded by saying that there was truth to the assertion because Chief Diaz took counsel from only the white men in command staff, leaving the two female assistant chiefs and Mr. Greening as the “out group.”

Greening told Diaz that while the department was diverse, “it was only inclusive when convenient to the dominant power group,” the lawsuit states.

He handed Diaz, who is Latino, a copy of the Continuum of Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization — a chart that outlines the six phases of becoming an anti-racist multicultural department.

“I can’t fix all of this,” Diaz responded, according to the lawsuit.

Greening raised concerns he had about discriminatory practices at Seattle Police, including those allegedly committed by Diaz, with human resources and the city ombuds office in 2022 and 2023.

In January 2023, Greening asked Diaz to release him of his responsibilities as lead of the department’s race and social justice team, a role no white person has ever held.

Then he handed Diaz a research article about cultural taxation.

After this meeting Greening claims that Diaz soured against him.

When Diaz was made permanent chief in January 2023, and on the hunt for a deputy, Greening told Diaz about his interest in the position and applied.

Diaz ignored his request and chose Eric Barden, a white man, instead.

Diaz demoted Greening in July, which resulted in a $27,000 pay cut and reduced the value of future pension payments.

Diaz abolished the outreach bureau that Greening led for two years, and moved him to the Force Review Unit, where he oversaw less than 10 employees and had no contact with the public.

Greening filed a retaliation complaint against Diaz with Seattle’s Office of Inspector General for Public Safety two months after his demotion, in September. An outside attorney has been hired to investigate the complaint.

But like other complaints made against Diaz, there’s been no resolution.

Last July, several Office of Police Accountability complaints accused Diaz of hiring a woman he allegedly had an affair with to be a top-level advisor. The case has remained at the intake level for 10 months — a long time when compared to complaints against members of the Seattle Police Officer Guild, which are held to an intake deadline of 30 days.

Diaz has faced no immediate consequences despite seven colleagues and four lawsuits coming out against him.

Mayor Harrell said in April that he would hire an outside consultant to examine sexism and harassment allegations against Diaz, but that it could take “months and months” because he wanted to allow for “due process.”

Three city council members have made statements about their concern over these allegations, chief among them Rob Saka, who was the first to speak out vociferously.

“That type of behavior has no place in our police department,” he wrote. “I plan to exercise my oversight authority to get to the bottom of these culture issues. To that end, I support the women on the force and plan to be in conversation about what we can do as a city to better support them.”

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