Harrell announced his intent to appoint Diaz, who has served as interim police chief since September 2020.
"Throughout this process, we’ve heard Seattleites’ clear expectations for the Seattle Police Department: effective public safety, meaningful community engagement, and a commitment to accountability and continuous improvement," Harrell said in a written statement. "I am confident that Chief Adrian Diaz will provide the leadership necessary to advance these critical priorities and make Seattle safe for all residents."
Harrell had encouraged Diaz to apply for the permanent role and chose him after a committee appointed by the mayor identified Diaz, Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief Eric Greening and Tucson Police Assistant Chief Kevin Hall as finalists for the position, The Seattle Times reported.
The Seattle City Council must confirm Harrell’s selection.
In a public forum last week, the finalists fielded questions about alternatives to police response, culture within the department and violence in the city. Diaz indicated support for increased policing alternatives and reform within the department, but he spoke more about his previous experience than about new ideas.
The Downtown Seattle Association released a statement following the Mayor's announcement:
"His long tenure with SPD positions Adrian Diaz well to assume the role of Seattle Police Chief. He is familiar with the challenges we’re facing downtown, including public safety, and has demonstrated leadership over the past two years in addressing these issues. Chief Diaz understands well the relationship between community safety and downtown’s ability to fully recovery. We look forward to our continued work with him during this critical time for downtown and the city."
Tuesday's announcement regarding public safety comes after new developments in the city's nationwide search for a new permanent police chief. On Sept. 8, Mayor Harrell unveiled his three finalists for the role:
- Adrian Diaz, current interim Seattle Police Chief
- Eric Greening, current Seattle Assistant Chief of Police
- Kevin Hall, Tuscon, Arizona Assistant Chief of Police
Diaz joined the agency in 1997 and has worked in the Seattle Police Department’s patrol and investigations units. He also served as assistant chief of the collaborative policing bureau before he was promoted to deputy chief.
Diaz said in a statement Tuesday that he was committed to ensuring that community is at the forefront of the department’s work and engagement.
"I approach this work with optimism, mindful of the trust that was shattered by the events of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, of the combined trauma of community and our officers alike, and of the long path towards reconciliation ahead of us," Diaz said.
Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigned in August 2020 after a tumultuous summer of racial justice protests in Seattle and nationally, sparked by the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.
Best, Seattle’s first Black police chief, said at the time that she quit in protest of efforts to decrease police spending.
The Seattle City Council voted in late 2020 to shrink the budget of the Seattle Police Department by about 18%, which was less than the proposed cuts that prompted Best to resign and far less than the 50% some advocates had sought.
The council at the same time approved hiring more than 100 officers and has since approved money for incentives as it has, like many cities, struggled to retain and attract police.
City Council members and residents had criticized Best for the department’s response to the 2020 protests against police brutality — which at times included tear gas, pepper spray and other less lethal weapons.
As interim chief, Diaz reworked the department’s crowd management policies and procedures, reducing the need for police use of crowd control tools, the statement from the city said.
Harrell and Diaz have said little about how they will navigate reform within the department, which has been under a federal consent decree for a decade because of sustained issues of force and bias within the department.
Harrell said in the statement that Diaz understands the department must continue striving for excellence, reject bias and complacency, and act on the needs of the city’s communities.