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Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz out; former Sheriff Sue Rahr interim

Updated at 4 p.m. 5/29/2024

After nearly a year of legal actions and turmoil, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz has been dismissed as chief, Mayor Bruce Harrell said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Sue Rahr, former King County sheriff, is stepping in as interim chief. Harrell’s office said Rahr would work with former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole to identify qualified candidates, and that the plan is to have a new chief selected by the end of the year.

Diaz will remain at the police department in another role, which Harrell has not yet determined but is calling "special projects." Harrell met with Diaz on Tuesday afternoon, a meeting at which they agreed Diaz should step down. Diaz then, according to sources, packed up his office.

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

The chief’s departure comes roughly one week after Captain Eric Greening filed a lawsuit alleging that Diaz discriminated against women and people of color at the department. Greening is the seventh sworn officer to sue the department – naming Diaz specifically – in a spate of legal action to hit the department.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Harrell said the parade of lawsuits were a distraction for Diaz. "He's a human being and a good human being of that," Harrell said.

He praised Diaz warmly before saying that they had agreed that culture change could "be better served with him stepping aside."

Diaz, too, spoke at the press conference podium. He listed his accomplishments, including his "Before the Badge" program, his attention to officer wellness, and recovery of drugs.

"I've accomplished so much in the four years as chief, but there's more work to be done," Diaz said.

He started to cry as he spoke. Rahr stepped in to hug him.

Before handing the mic to Rahr, Harrell addressed reporters present, saying, "What you saw was authenticity," referring to Diaz.

Rahr then addressed Seattle police officers directly, calling them her brothers and sisters across the street.

"First, to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department, you're going through some turbulence right now, I recognize that and I want to do whatever I can to reassure you, we're going to get through this," she said. "The first thing I'm going to do first day in office tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock, I'm going to start by listening."

Diaz has led the department since September 2020, taking over as interim chief for Carmen Best following the civil rights protests in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Two years later, Mayor Bruce Harrell named Diaz permanent chief.

Diaz was connected with community groups in Seattle, and several of those leaders showed up to the press conference to support him. Rev. Harriett Walden and Victoria Beach both spoke up, saying they believe it is a mistake to remove Diaz as chief.

Harrell acknowledged Diaz's connections to community groups: "He has credibility in many organizations, particularly, underrepresented or Black and brown communities, people of color," he said.

But soon after being sworn in, Diaz became embroiled in lawsuits, scandal, and a staffing crisis.

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

Homicides reached record highs last year. Staffing is currently at its lowest since 1991.

Seven sworn officers have filed claims against the department and the city, alleging racial and sex discrimination.

Last month, four female cops filed a tort claim for $5 million, alleging harassment and sex discrimination. One of the women accused Diaz himself of predatory behavior and grooming.

Last fall, an internal report quoting female cops about their experiences with the department revealed a workplace rife with harassment and sexism.

RELATED: Seattle police face reckoning over 'culture' in 2024 as federal oversight winds down

The report came on the heels of a summer of intrigue, as rumors about Diaz hiring a romantic partner to be a close advisor roiled the department.

Diaz attempted to quash the rumors, going so far as to contact the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He ultimately fired one junior staffer for discussing the rumor with colleagues. Diaz denied the romantic connection through his attorney, Ted Buck.

Meanwhile, Seattle police officers came under scrutiny for their behavior. Bodycam footage revealed a giant Trump flag hanging in the break room at a precinct. Other totems were displayed as well, including a mock tombstone for a young man killed by police.

When an officer struck Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula with his patrol vehicle, killing her, it didn’t make immediate news. But it went viral after another officer was caught on tape laughing as he discussed the young woman’s death.

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