Mayor Durkan appoints interim SPD chief, won’t look for permanent replacement in 2020
With SPD Chief Carmen Best announcing her retirement Tuesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan outlined her plans for filling the role in the weeks ahead.
Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz will serve as the city’s interim police chief beginning Sept. 2. Diaz has served in the department for over two decades. He began his career in SPD as a patrol officer, later serving with the Bike Unit, as an undercover officer, and then a member of the investigations unit. Prior to serving as deputy chief, he was also the assistant chief for the Collaborative Policing Bureau.
Mayor Durkan intimated Tuesday that she doesn’t plan to begin a search for a new permanent police chief in 2020, citing the uncertainty surrounding what the department might look like in the future.
“They don’t know what job they’d be applying for,” she said. “If we start a search right now, I doubt we could attract the candidates Seattle deserves.”
Once Durkan does name a new SPD chief, that nomination will be subject to confirmation vote by the city council.
The last search for a new police chief in Seattle took place in 2018 after then-chief Katherine O’Toole stepped down, ultimately ending in Best’s appointment. The selection came after a controversial process, which saw Best left off the initial list of three finalists chosen by a 25-member search committee.
All three of the finalists in 2018 had not previously served with the Seattle Police Department. The list included: Eddie Frizell, inspector with the Minneapolis Police Department, serving for over two decades, also a colonel with the National Guard; Cameron McLay, former Pittsburgh police chief, also spent nearly three decades with the Madison Police Department in Wisconsin; and Ely Reyes, assistant police chief for the Austin Police Department serving for more than two decades, also served with U.S. Army and was a recipient of the Purple Heart.
Former Councilmember Tim Burgess helped lead the search committee, stating that the goal was to bring someone in to “change the culture of the police department.”
“We concluded that someone from outside the police department could best do that,” he said at the time.
There was a considerable uproar from the city’s police union and community members over Best being left off the shortlist, in the midst of what they viewed as a lack of transparency throughout the process. Supporters lauded her decades of service in the city’s police department, having moved through the ranks as an officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and deputy chief. After Cameron McLay dropped out of consideration, Best was added to the list of finalists before being appointed chief by Mayor Durkan in mid-July of 2018.