Skip to main content

You make this possible. Support our independent, nonprofit newsroom today.

Give Now

Seattle police lieutenant condemns Chief Diaz, says he enables department ‘serial harasser’

caption: Three female cops have filed complaints about Lt. John O'Neil, left, one of Chief Adrian Diaz's closes advisors at the Seattle Police Department.
Enlarge Icon
Three female cops have filed complaints about Lt. John O'Neil, left, one of Chief Adrian Diaz's closes advisors at the Seattle Police Department.
From left, Seattle Police Department, Megan Farmer/KUOW

Lieutenant Lauren Truscott's recent decision to challenge Police Chief Adrian Diaz was born out of a sense of responsibility and allegiance to Seattle, where she grew up, the daughter of a cop — but also of disillusionment.

It felt like the department was crumbling around her, and Truscott said she could no longer stay quiet.

RELATED: Seattle police chief's alleged relationship with employee prompts inquiries, roils department

That feeling started last summer, as rumors swirled about Chief Diaz allegedly hiring his girlfriend to be a top-level advisor. There was also an internal police department report quoting women calling the place a “good old boys club” rife with sexism and harassment. And then Truscott’s boss, Captain Deanna Nollette, sued the department and the chief for sexism.

“Women are being marginalized and dismissed, and no one is listening,” Truscott said. “We should never be treating employees as though they’re disposable. They are our most valuable commodity, but especially during a staffing crisis.”

Truscott kept her opinions to herself as she watched these developments unfold. She believed in the chain of command and steered clear of idle chatter. But when a colleague, Lt. John O’Neil, came to her to gossip about a subordinate’s sex life, while accusing the woman of also lying on her timesheets, Truscott felt she had a professional obligation but was also required by policy to speak up.

She looked into O’Neil’s allegation about time theft, and found it was baseless. Then she read past complaints made about the lieutenant, and became alarmed. Not only were allegations of harassment being dismissed, but O’Neil had been promoted.

O’Neil wasn’t just any lieutenant, either. As head of public affairs, he was, and still is, one of Chief Diaz’s closest advisors. For Truscott, that signaled that the sexual harassment and discrimination came from the top, with Diaz’s behavior “permeating itself down through the ranks.”

“There needs to be a change of leadership,” Truscott told KUOW, a damning statement given that Truscott is several rungs beneath Diaz at a fiercely hierarchical agency.

In an email to KUOW, Seattle Police public affairs wrote that Truscott’s allegations against O’Neil “include hearsay” and that prior complaints against him have “already been resolved on their merits through the [police department] systems established by law for resolving such complaints.”

They wrote that Chief Diaz “is driving significant and necessary cultural transformations within the Seattle Police Department.”

In March, the Seattle Police command staff wrote to KUOW that under Diaz’s leadership, “women have risen to comprise a historically high percentage of leadership in Executive, Captain and Lieutenant level.”

They wrote that Diaz ordered the department to commission a report examining the conditions women face at Seattle Police, and that he was praised by national reform leaders for his efforts.

Lt. John O’Neil didn’t respond to KUOW’s interview request.

The Office of Police Accountability has opened its own, external investigation into Truscott’s complaint.

Read Truscott's full complaint below.

PDF Icon

SPD Lt. Lauren Truscott's complaint against Lt. John O'Neil

Past complaints

One officer, a dog handler, filed a complaint in 2023 saying that O’Neil had tracked her with GPS, sexually harassed her by meeting with her alone and pulling a chair close so their legs would touch.

In a separate complaint, a female detective wrote in 2023 that O’Neil had retaliated against her by filing an insubordination complaint against her the day she requested to take medical leave. She was already wary — when O’Neil came on board, he allegedly told her things would change and that she “wouldn’t like it.”

Recently, a third female cop filed a complaint against O’Neil over allegations that he created a hostile work environment.

All three women filed complaints; two of which were determined to be unsupported. The latest complaint remains ongoing.

RELATED: 10 female cops speak out about sexism, harassment within the Seattle Police Department

It never ended there, however: O’Neil, who is Black, filed his own grievances with accusations of insubordination or racism.

Behind it all was Diaz, Truscott said. He was aware of O’Neil’s actions but did little to stop him. Not just that — Diaz promoted O’Neil.

In March, Truscott submitted a four-page complaint drawing a direct line from O’Neil’s alleged pattern of behavior to Diaz.

“This behavior has been allowed to continue for years and speaks to the toxic environment and endless challenges for women in the Seattle Police Department,” Truscott wrote.

KUOW obtained a copy of Truscott’s complaint from the city and approached her for an interview. Her husband, who retired as a high-ranking Seattle Police commander, was present for her interview. No other officer who filed complaints against O’Neil would comment for this story.

KUOW also reviewed harassment complaints filed against O’Neil in the last three years under the police department’s Equal Employment Opportunity office.

Truscott said she didn’t understand how Diaz — a police chief who has publicly prided himself as a tough boss who keeps a box of police badges of those he fired — wouldn’t step in.

The K9 cop

When O’Neil was a sergeant in the police dog unit in 2021, he brought in Kame Spencer to fill a vacancy on his team.

Spencer later told investigators that O’Neil, her supervisor, had more than once pushed his leg against hers during private meetings, according to records.

Truscott said she learned from reviewing complaint records that O’Neil had allegedly invited Spencer to stay at his house, and used GPS to track her whereabouts when she was working overtime assignments outside of O’Neil’s chain of command.

Spencer said that O’Neil isolated her by telling her there was a group of “White boys” who disliked her. Both Spencer and O’Neil are Black.

“You got this job because of me so you should be saying thank you,” O’Neil allegedly told her, according to complaint records.

RELATED: Seattle Police is a 'good old boys club' where women struggle to get ahead, report says

As an investigation into O’Neil’s management was underway, Chief Diaz transferred him to the media unit.

After her first complaint stagnated, Spencer filed a new grievance against O’Neil in 2023.

O’Neil was promoted to lieutenant last summer, soon after Spencer told investigators for the second time that he’d subjected her to a hostile work environment. Spencer’s complaint was closed in January. She didn’t have enough proof, the city’s human resources department wrote in its investigation findings.

The detectives

In the media unit, two more female cops filed complaints against O’Neil.

One of these women, Valerie Carson, a detective in her 30s, filed a claim of workplace retaliation.

In an interview with investigators, O’Neil complained about how Carson dressed.

O’Neil wasn’t acting alone in making this complaint about Carson’s clothes. As O’Neil said later, according to records, the chief had complained to him that Carson wore “club” attire.

“Chief Diaz has also had a role in some of this conduct, directing O’Neil to take actions against Officer Carson,” Truscott wrote in her complaint.

She said O’Neil has “weaponized the complaint system to control and manipulate his subordinate employees.”

One of those employees was Judinna Gulpan, Truscott said, an officer O’Neil brought to the media unit who had also worked with him in community policing.

Last December, O’Neil filed an insubordination complaint against Gulpan.

Several weeks later, Gulpan filed a complaint against O’Neil for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

When it came time for promotions, Diaz skipped over Gulpan. Truscott said she believes this happened because O’Neil filed a complaint against Gulpan, and it was used as justification to keep her from becoming sergeant.

In the end, Gulpan, like Carson, asked to be moved to patrol to escape what Truscott called a “toxic workplace.” The city’s Equal Employment Opportunity office failed to mitigate the workplace environment and protect them, Truscott said.

RELATED: Seattle police captain was moved to nights after suing chief. ‘Retaliatory act,’ her attorney says

O’Neil remains the head of public affairs and has continued to file complaints, the most recent alleging he’s the target of “discriminatory and harassing conduct” by Gulpan, Truscott, Spencer, Carson, and another officer.

In her complaint, Truscott wrote, “Women in this department often must keep quiet about behaviors such as [O’Neil’s].

“While this institution may not be ready for change, women, like me, are willing to put themselves at risk to support their peers in this department. This sort of behavior cannot be allowed to continue.”

Why you can trust KUOW