In the end it's the candidate who has already been doing the job, and who Mayor McGinn has been working with for the last six months, who may get the permanent position. McGinn appointed Interim Chief John Diaz to be Seattle's police chief at a press conference June 24, citing the experience of working with Diaz during a rough period for the Seattle Police Department as key in choosing him over the other candidates.
"He's a man of deep integrity," McGinn said of Diaz, and praised his quiet leadership style as based in Diaz's values.
Part of such integrity comes from welcoming citizen input, and Diaz said, "It's important for the community to hold our feet to the fire."
James Bible, president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP, promises to do just that. He said the NAACP will continue to keep a watchful eye on SPD and hold rallies, file complaints of misconduct, and even take complaints to the federal Department of Justice if they see the need.
Bible would have liked to see someone from outside appointed chief to make more dramatic changes within the department. He expressed concern about Diaz's history with the force as number two in command, including during an incident in 2007 in which two officers were exonerated after being accused of planting drug evidence. "It's not about the most recent event," Bible said.
After the latest police incident June 14, in which an officer was caught on videotape punching a young woman, City Attorney Pete Holmes criticized the leadership of the police force. He has pledged to work with Diaz, however, since the appointment.
Diaz has served with the Seattle force his entire career, rising through the ranks over the past 30 years. At the press conference he said he wants to reach out to the NAACP and other community groups.
Diaz has been serving as interim chief since May 2009 when he was appointed to the position after Chief Gil Kerlikowske was chosen by President Obama to direct the Office of National Drug Control Policy. During this time the department has solved several homicides, including the murder of one of their own, Officer Timothy Brenton. The Seattle Police Guild supported Diaz's candidacy, despite a disagreement regarding the firing of an officer last May.
McGinn chose Diaz over East Palo Alto chief Ron Davis, who was criticized by the police guild for lack of experience due to the much smaller size of his department in comparison with Seattle's. Earlier the third finalist, Sacramento chief Rick Braziel, withdrew his application, saying Sacramento was a better fit for him. After this surprise turn of events some City Council members called on Mayor McGinn to reopen the search, which began in January.
When asked about introducing any changes as permanent chief, Diaz focused on the initiatives SPD is already doing, and said he would like to do a better job of publicizing them.
The process continues with hearings before the Seattle City Council, which must confirm the mayor's nomination; councilmembers have said they will press Diaz to promise concrete changes. The council will hold an evening public hearing on Diaz's appointment on Wednesday, July 28.