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Rantz Exclusive: Former Seattle police Chief Adrian Diaz announces he’s gay

Jun 17, 2024, 4:03 PM | Updated: 5:06 pm

Adrian Diaz, a dedicated public servant with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) for nearly three decades, was thrust into a whirlwind of controversy that cost him his role as police chief.

Accusations of “predatory behavior” and “grooming” by female officers have painted Diaz, who is married with three children, as a villain. One female officer claimed he tried to walk in on her getting undressed between shifts. There was even a rumor promulgated by a local media outlet that Diaz was sleeping with his chief of staff.

But the reality is far more complex and heartbreaking. His innocence, overshadowed by these damning allegations of predatory behavior, remained hidden behind a secret he wasn’t ready to share.

Adrian Diaz is gay and has struggled privately with his identity for the last several years.

“It’s a story that it’s struggled with, over the last four years, that I’m a gay Latino man,” Diaz, through tears, exclusively told “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH. “You know, it doesn’t bother me. It’s more of my concern for my kids because they’re going to have to deal with a lot of the struggles that I might not have to deal with.”

His announcement comes as Diaz hopes to find himself on the shortlist to take over as chief of the Austin Police Department in Texas.

When did Adrian Diaz admit to himself that he’s gay?

Diaz said he realized he was gay late in life and he only started to truly admit it around 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“You kind of initially, you challenge yourself with it and you say, ‘Nah, that’s just, that’s not me,’ because I’ve always identified as straight for so long. And then being married …” Diaz said.

He said it was a struggle to come to terms with his own sexuality. It led to “tough conversations” with his wife and kids. He never wanted to hurt them and vowed, throughout this, to continue to live at home so his kids would see both their parents every day.

When he was ready to come out, he said there didn’t seem to be a good time. If it wasn’t COVID-19, it was the death of George Floyd, followed by his selection as police chief.

“I have not been able to just come out. And that has been a struggle,” Diaz explained.

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Who knew Adrian Diaz is gay and why didn’t they defend him against allegations?

It became more clear to Diaz that he needed to come out after rumors surfaced that he was having an affair with his close confidante, his chief of staff.

His chief of staff was one of the very few who knew Diaz was gay. She would never break his confidence and share his secret, even as it meant being hounded by the unsubstantiated allegations of a rumored relationship that went citywide after a report by KUOW radio’s Ashley Hiruko and Isolde Raftery.

Then the claims of sexual harassment or predatory behavior started. He had a clear defense against claims he wanted to sleep with a female officer, but the question was when he would go public.

Diaz told Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell he is gay in February. He said Harrell was supportive.

Publicly, however, Harrell had been hesitant to offer a full-throated public defense of his chief, even though he must have doubted the allegations.

After a $5 million tort claim was leveled against the city over, in part, the chief’s alleged predatory behavior, the mayor announced an independent third-party investigation. 

Ultimately, Harrell did not wait for the findings of the third-party investigation. The mayor and Diaz decided it was time to part ways as chief.

“I would have loved to still continue to do the job. Don’t get me wrong. I love this city. I love the officers. I love this department. I believe that for 27 years, I’ve given my heart and soul to it and I would have loved to finish out every ounce of my career here. It makes me sad that I’m not able to. But … you kind of know when that time is to say, ‘OK, how do I actually make the department able to move on?'” Diaz explained.

Was Adrian Diaz ‘allowed’ to come out as gay?

Diaz wonders whether or not coming out sooner would have helped save his job. He notes that “just because you’re a gay man doesn’t mean that you can’t be a misogynist.” But he said his identity could have addressed many of the concerns that people raised.

It was frustrating that he was told by the mayor’s office that he couldn’t really comment on pending litigation. When asked if he was told not to come out as gay, Diaz deflected: “That would be something that will be discussed at a later time.”

Adrian Diaz gay

Former Seattle Police Department Chief Adrian Diaz sits down with Jason Rantz for a 1-on-1 interview on KTTH 770 AM. (Photo: Benjamin Huffman, KIRO Newsradio)

Sources have explained to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH that, while Harrell has been supportive, his Deputy Mayor Tim Burgess has not been. They believe Burgess wanted more of a footprint on the department than Diaz was willing to give.

But if it were up to Diaz, he would have been more forceful in response to the claims made against him.

What are the claims of ‘predatory behavior’ and ‘grooming’ against Adrian Diaz?

Officer Valerie Carson, through her attorney in the tort claim, alleged that Diaz “began to pay special attention” to her when she started with the Public Affairs Unit.

Carson said Diaz was overly chatty, leading members of his security detail to claim “he was trying to engage in a romantic relationship” with her. The tort claim said “this suspicion was warranted” because Diaz wouldn’t talk about work with her.

The tort claim also suggested Diaz would try to see her get undressed at the office. At the time, Carson was changing out of her uniform to civilian clothes in a cubicle at headquarters because she said there was no changing room for women on this floor.

“The entire staff, including Chief Diaz, knew Ms. Carson changed out of her clothes on a regular basis. All other officers would alert Ms. Carson before walking by the cubicle to make sure they did not catch her changing. Chief Diaz, on the other hand, would simply walk into Ms. Carson’s space without making an announcement even though he knew she could be changing,” the tort claim read.

Carson also claimed that she feared Diaz would try to kiss her on New Year’s Eve while on duty with the chief, made “flattering comments” on her “leopard print outfits” and tried to help her with housework at her house.

Diaz defends himself against the claims

The former Seattle police chief did not deny being chatty with Carson, or offering to help her with housework.

But he said he was not interested in her sexually. He’s just talkative and likes to work on do-it-yourself projects. In fact, he said he’s helped many friends with their projects.

“There’s so much work that I’ve done with my neighbor who’s 90 years old. Literally helped her out with her plumbing. Does that mean I’m going to sleep with her?” Diaz asked. “And you know, it’s sad because even just talking with some of the female chiefs across the (country), they’re like, it was always rumored that they were sleeping with somebody.”

Diaz said he even recalled hearing that he and former Chief Carmen Best were in a relationship. He thinks some of it is just office gossip, but he also suspects rumors were amplified by people who were working with one another to bring him down.

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Did Diaz oversee a culture of misogyny?

Veteran officer and former Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette also filed a lawsuit against the department after she was demoted to captain following Diaz’s appointment. She suspects it was retaliation for applying for the chief’s job.

Nollette claims that Diaz “has a history of misogyny … is demeaning to women in the police force.”

But Diaz thinks this was sour grapes that she didn’t get the job. He demoted Nollette because, as is common practice, chiefs get to pick their senior leadership staff and he had other people in mind. He said the evidence that’s already been collected will bear out his position that there was no sexist reason behind Nollette’s demotion.

“You’re not looking to hire somebody for a position. You’re actually looking to hire the person; you’re looking for their attitude and what they bring to the table, the agility, the innovation, the creativeness, and people who are flexible and can work around others. And so my commitment was making sure that I did that,” he said.

Nollette herself has a history and faces a complaint with the Office of Police Accountability.

“The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH exclusively reported that several officers accused Nollette of having a “bias” towards women and once warned them not to get pregnant because it caused staffing problems.

“In front of everyone, Nollette said she wanted people to stop getting pregnant or we all needed to do a better job scheduling with each other because it was hard for her,” an officer told “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH on the condition of anonymity fearing retribution. “She was trying to joke, but it came off bad … Coming from female Command (Staff), it was downright ridiculous and it was in a room of like 30 people so it spread like wildfire.”

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Navigating a staffing crisis

There had been rumors early in the chief’s tenure that he was gay. But they soon faded away as the SPD faced an unprecedented staffing crisis in the aftermath of the defund police movement.

Diaz earned the spot after former chief Carmen Best resigned following an attempt by the Seattle City Council to cut her and her Command Staff’s salary, along with eliminating the SWAT unit. It was the final straw in contentious debates during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 when the council promised 50% cuts to the SPD budget.

The defund movement took its toll. The SPD has since lost over 600 officers. As of June 2024, there were only 847 deployable sworn officers, leaving the SPD with the lowest staffing since 1958.

As staffing hit historic lows, crime was soaring. Seattle saw its highest-ever recorded homicides in 2022. Diaz said he did his best to address these issues head-on.

“I took our department through some of the most difficult times and challenges in our history,” he said. “Reset a consent decree, dealing with the death of an officer, defund movement, staffing losses, violent crime up. And we’ve tackled each and every one of them.” 

Adrian Diaz hopes to be on short list for Austin, Texas

As Diaz was unable to defend himself against the claims, the allegations — and his secret — were taking their toll.

While he didn’t want to leave the City of Seattle, he realized he just might have to. And he didn’t want future employers or media members to not get the full story.

“I want to make sure people understand who I am,” Diaz explained. “I want to live my truth. I don’t want to be hidden behind any curtain or anything like that. I want another opportunity to serve a city. And, you know, it’s not easy when you have some false allegations against you. I don’t want to have any secrets if I decide to go to another city.”

When Harrell announced Diaz was leaving the chief position, parking him in a nebulously defined “Special Projects” role, the former chief said he was open to other opportunities. One has come up in Austin.

Diaz said the prospects look promising but is waiting to see where it goes. He said Austin is a lot like Seattle.

“I think Austin is a very progressive city, very similar to Seattle. And there’s a lot of similarities. A lot of struggles with staffing and a variety of different challenges. They had crowd management issues during 2020,” Diaz said, in addition to drugs and homelessness.

While Diaz takes time off to deal with a nagging health issue and now live more openly, he said he’s proud of what he was able to accomplish at the SPD.

“I took our department through some of the most difficult times and challenges in our history,” he said. “Reset a consent decree, dealing with the death of an officer, defund movement, staffing losses, violent crime up. And we’ve tackled each and every one of them.”

Listen to “The Jason Rantz Show” on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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