MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Diaz to depart as SPD chief; Interim Sue Rahr to focus on cultural change

May 29, 2024, 1:13 PM | Updated: 6:35 pm

Images: Adrian Diaz, left, stands at the Wednesday, May 29, 2024 news conference after Seattle Mayo...

Adrian Diaz, left, stands at the Wednesday, May 29, 2024 news conference after Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced Diaz was removed from his position as Seattle Police Chief. Sue Rahr, at right standing on a different area of the stage, will replace Diaz and be the interim chief. (Images courtesy of The Seattle Channel; graphic courtesy of MyNorthwest)

(Images courtesy of The Seattle Channel; graphic courtesy of MyNorthwest)

There will be a new police chief in Seattle starting at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. That’s when former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr will come out of retirement to become interim chief for the foreseeable future.

During an announcement Wednesday afternoon, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said Rahr has no plans to become the permanent chief and will assist Harrell and former police Chief Kathleen O’Toole in a national search for Adrian Diaz’s replacement. Rahr served as the executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and was a member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-century policing.

Former Seattle Police Chief Diaz to work on ‘special projects’

Harrell faced repeated questions during a one-hour press conference about the timing of the change. He said he has had ongoing discussions with Diaz about issues, and recently, Diaz accepted an offer to stay with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and work on “special projects.” When pressed, Harrell did not specify what those job duties would entail or what Diaz’s title and rank would be.

“He has agreed to put the needs of the city first and work on special projects. To realize the kind of culture change we want, it could be better served with him stepping aside,” Harrell said.

From Jason Rantz: Adrian Diaz out as Seattle Police Chief, will stay with department

“Culture change” was a mantra Harrell repeated five times in his answers. When asked if that meant finding a new chief from outside of Seattle, Harrell said, “No. Anyone who feels they are qualified can apply, but the kind of culture change that I’m looking at, one has to question whether that can come from an internal candidate.”

Since Diaz took over as interim chief in 2020 after Carmen Best voluntarily stepped down, and in the two years since Harrell made him permanent chief, there has been a slow disintegration of trust by members of his department, including members of his command staff. That disarray behind the scenes has resulted in several lawsuits against the chief and claims of discrimination and harassment.

Officers file tort claim against Diaz

After four officers filed a $5 million tort claim against Diaz and the department alleging gender discrimination, Mayor Harrell hired a legal firm to investigate those claims and others. The mayor added that his executive team decided it did not want to wait until the investigations were complete before making the move to bring in a new chief. Harrell denied the timing was a political move to avoid the specter of a chief shrouded in controversy with open investigations when Harrell’s reelection bid begins a year from now.

“I make decisions based on logic, strategy, and the need for effectiveness. It wasn’t a political decision. It’s a decision we think is in the best interest of the city and in the best interest of this department,” Harrell responded.

Harrell also explained there was no specific incident that led to the decision to make a change despite reporters present asking the same question about what exactly the tipping point was.

More on SPD: Seattle Police Department faces staffing shortages causing slower response times

Rahr to make ‘meaningful change’

Rahr said at the news conference that she’s “incredibly honored to step into the big shoes being filled.” She went on to say that she will start listening to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department, asking them to be brutally honest with their assessments while speaking to her.

She also said it’s going to take a lot of time to change and she will take the time to listen.

“I think the Seattle Police Department is open to doing something meaningful, and implementing systemic change because we can’t keep playing Whack-a-Mole every time there’s an allegation here or there,” she said. “Until we change the system, we’re not going to have meaningful change. And that was one of the things that really drew me to this opportunity is to actually do something that’s going to matter.”

In her remarks, Rahr mentioned a desire to see Seattle be known for recruiting women to the department and being the best at it.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, or email him here.

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Diaz to depart as SPD chief; Interim Sue Rahr to focus on cultural change