Skip to main content

‘I am a gay Latino man,’ says former Seattle Chief Adrian Diaz after stepping down

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.
Enlarge Icon
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

Adrian Diaz, until last month Seattle’s police chief, disclosed that he is gay in an emotional and wide-ranging interview with KTTH/MyNorthwest on Monday.

The surprise announcement comes just three weeks after Diaz, a 27-year veteran of the department, was demoted by Mayor Bruce Harrell to a “special projects” role. Diaz stepped down after a year of departmental turmoil, in which seven officers named Diaz in lawsuits, saying the former chief discriminated against women and people of color. One female cop accused Diaz himself of “predatory behavior” and “grooming,” which Diaz has denied.

“You know, it’s absurd, and I haven’t had the opportunity to be able to tell my story,” an emotional Diaz told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “It’s a story I’ve struggled with over the last four years that I’m a gay Latino man.”

Diaz became interim police chief in 2020, after the civil rights protests on Capitol Hill in Seattle. He became the permanent chief two years later, in January 2023. Soon after, his public relations troubles began, as rumors began swirling that he had hired an alleged girlfriend to be a top advisor. Hiring a romantic partner without disclosing the relationship would violate city policy. An investigation into that relationship has been in a preliminary phase for nearly a year.

KUOW reported extensively on how Diaz responded – firing a civilian staffer for gossiping about the rumor, and going so far as to consult with the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Related: Seattle police chief’s alleged relationship with employee prompts inquiries, roils department

Diaz never denied these allegations directly to KUOW, instead sending reporters to his personal attorney Ted Buck, who said Diaz was a committed married man with three children.

“Are they romantic friends? No, they're not,” Buck said of the former chief’s relationship with his top advisor. “Has Adrian helped her put dimmer switches on some of her electrical outlets because that's what he does? Yeah, that's the kind of friendship they have.”

In the following months, officers filed lawsuits against Diaz. Deanna Nollette, a former assistant chief, sued, accusing Diaz of sexism. Another former assistant chief, Eric Greening, said Diaz discriminated against him because he is Black.

Greening said in the lawsuit that Diaz didn’t listen to him because of his race, harmed his reputation, caused him shame and embarrassment, and diminished future career prospects.

Those filing lawsuits said the department was rife with retaliation – often anonymous complaints filed to the Office of Police Accountability, which they believe originated with the chief or his closest associates.

Diaz said that as these lawsuits were filed, he felt stymied, especially as he struggled to come to terms with his emerging identity. He considered his wife, and his three children especially, worried they might be mocked in school.

“You don't come out just to come out,” Diaz said. “This is not something that makes it easy on your life. Like in fact it makes it even harder on your life.”

As the legal process unfolded, Mayor Harrell met with Diaz in late May and together they agreed it was time for change. Harrell tapped former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr to lead the department on an interim basis.

Harrell said he expects to hire a permanent chief by the end of this year.

Diaz told KTTH that he is hoping to make the shortlist for chief of the Austin, Texas police department.

Diaz said that he had been on a journey of self discovery starting about four years ago. He told KTTH that the woman he was rumored to be having an affair with was a close confidante – and that she had helped him come out to his wife and children.

Diaz told Rantz he had just read about Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan, who died at 85 and came out in his obituary.

“I didn’t want to be that person,” he said.

Editor's note: This story was clarified on July 1 to remove the word "allegedly" in reference to a civilian SPD staffer's repetition of the rumor directed at Chief Diaz. An internal SPD inquiry found that the employee admitted to discussing the rumor with others and apologized to his supervisor for doing so.

Why you can trust KUOW