Timing of former SPD chief coming out raises questions amidst legal, administrative turmoil

Jun 18, 2024, 6:35 PM | Updated: 6:38 pm

Seattle police tombstone...

Seattle Police Chief, Adrian Diaz, appeared before a civilian police oversight body Wednesday to answer questions about a fake tombstone of a man killed by officers that was put on display in the East Precinct. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

The admission of former Seattle Police Department (SPD) Chief Adrian Diaz being a “gay Latino man” on “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH has some unnamed sources within SPD and members questioning the timing of his announcement and how much of a factor, if any, it played in Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s decision to dismiss him from his chief duties.

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

Diaz told Rantz he became self-aware of his true sexual orientation about four years ago, roughly at the time he was appointed interim police chief by then-Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has been very public about being gay for decades. There is no evidence that Diaz told Durkan about his thoughts on his sexuality at the time. Diaz became interim chief on August 11, 2020, following the sudden retirement of Chief Carmen Best. Diaz was named permanent chief by Harrell 25 months later in September 2022.

The 27-year veteran of the department stepped down as chief on May 30 following what the mayor described as a mutual agreement between the two. Harrell repeated himself several times when reporters asked if there was one event that “broke the camel’s back” leading to Diaz’s removal from his post.

“There seems to be this concern that there was an epiphany, or an incident occurred; it just wasn’t the case,” Harrell said on May 30 with Diaz standing behind him during a press conference. “This is just in the best interest of the city, and the interests of the city transcend everything else.”

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

During Diaz’s interview with Rantz, he said it was a mutual decision with the mayor to step aside, and he told the mayor in February about his realization that he was gay.

“I had a good conversation with the mayor about four months ago, and he was very supportive. I was very appreciative of it,” Diaz said.

He claimed the mayor told him to “come out when you are ready; it should be your timeline.”

“I was very appreciative of that support,” Diaz said.

However, later in the interview, Diaz was asked by Rantz if anyone in the Harrell administration suggested he should not come out.

“That will be something that will be discussed at a later time,” he said.

Timeline of Diaz’s final moments as chief before his announcement

Between comments made by Harrell during the May 30 announcement and Diaz’s description of his final months as chief, a timeline can be developed that could shed light on the timing of Harrell’s decision to get Diaz to step down as chief and Diaz’s announcement that he was gay during a tumultuous time at SPD that left six people suing Diaz for various reasons.

In November 2023, SPD detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin, who is Black, filed a lawsuit alleging years of discrimination by SPD management. Diaz was the chief during the latter part of her current 43-year career at the department. Two months later, Captain Deanna Nollette filed a lawsuit against the city specifically naming Diaz’s alleged history of misogyny that held back women from leadership positions. Nollette had been an assistant chief under Chief Best but was demoted to captain by Diaz.

Report: Seattle mayor hires firm to probe SPD sexual harassment, discrimination claims

A month later, the Seattle Times published a story about a then-unreleased report by a Washington State University researcher and professor who spent three days in August 2023 interviewing members of the department, primarily women, about discrimination. The report had been completed and submitted to SPD in September 2023. The Times article forced SPD to release the report publicly on February 9. (A PDF of that report can be viewed here.)

The report describes incidents of alleged sexual harassment in the department and a culture discouraging women from advancing into leadership roles. It was around this time that Diaz said he told Harrell about his sexual orientation.

One former SPD ranking officer who did not want to be identified told me Diaz is “lying about being gay in order to protect himself in these lawsuits.” In late April, four female members of the department filed a tort claim with the city alleging Diaz engaged in predatory and discriminatory behavior. A few days later, Mayor Harrell hired an independent investigator to explore the tort allegations and matters involving the chief.

Then another lawsuit claiming discrimination was filed by a 30-year veteran of the department, Eric Greening, who is Black. The lawsuit alleges Diaz discriminated against female and BIPOC officers. Greening was a finalist with Diaz for chief in 2022. Diaz demoted Greening from assistant chief to captain in July 2023.

It was that same week when Harrell reached out to former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr to see if she was interested in being interim chief, as soon as Chief Diaz was to step down. Diaz did just that a week later, on May 30.

The comments Harrell made on that day when pressed by reporters about the timing of the decision to ask Diaz to step down may have new meaning in light of Diaz’s remarks in the Rantz interview. Harrell made the decision to let Diaz go before his independent investigator returned with their conclusions.

“We concluded as an executive team, and I don’t make these decisions in a vacuum; we do not need to wait for the termination of an investigation,” Harrell said on May 30. “We did not need to evaluate that.”

“I have a sense of urgency in creating the safe city that I demand we have; that’s why we didn’t wait,” Harrell added.

Diaz is one of 32 candidates to apply to be chief of Police for Austin, Texas, according to a report published Tuesday in the Austin American-Statesman. Another candidate is Kevin Hall, the assistant police chief of Tucson Arizona who was a finalist for Seattle police chief in 2022 along with Eric Greening. Diaz got the Seattle job.

In light of new information provided by the Diaz interview, I asked the mayor’s office if Diaz’s February conversation with the mayor had any bearing on asking Diaz to step down and the legal complications that could be represented in a sexual harassment case. We are waiting for an answer from the mayor’s office.

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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Timing of former SPD chief coming out raises questions amidst legal, administrative turmoil