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SPD Chief John Diaz Retiring; Assistant Chief Jim Pugel Promoted to Interim Chief

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After a 36-year career in law enforcement, Seattle police Chief John Diaz is retiring.

“It was time,” Chief Diaz said at a press conference Monday morning, flanked by his successor, Assistant Chief Jim Pugel, and Mayor Mike McGinn.

Since taking the helm at SPD in 2009, Chief Diaz has overseen, among other things, an 11-percent drop in major crimes across the city, expansion in Crisis Intervention Training for officers, accessibility of police information and data online, the investigation into the murder of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton, a crack down on the commercial sexual exploitation of children online, and the department’s reform efforts as part of a Department of Justice settlement agreement and the 20/20 policing plan.

Diaz said he “wanted to be sure” a number of reform efforts within the Seattle Police Department—including the 20/20 plan and DoJ agreement—were “up and running” before he departed.

Diaz will continue on as the SPD Chief through May, when Assistant Chief Jim Pugel—who currently oversees SPD’s Investigations Bureau—will take the helm as Interim Chief.

As Assistant Chief, Pugel—a Seattle native and University of Washington graduate—has overseen the Homicide, CSI, Robbery, Gang, Vice/High-Risk Victims Unit,  Sexual Assault, Major Crimes, Domestic Violence, Auto Theft, Fraud and Forensic Support units, and is also the department’s lead for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pilot program, which officers low-level drug offenders to opportunity to get treatment instead of jail time.

At Monday’s press conference, Mayor McGinn praised Assistant Chief Pugel for his “progressive thinking,” a sentiment also echoed by the leaders of two drug policy reform groups:


Allan Clear, Executive Director, Harm Reduction Coalition: 

For those interested in re-imagining drug policy, Jim Pugel is a champion. Courage of conviction is necessary to commit to new and innovative policing models.  Chief Pugel’s long commitment to harm reduction and his role in developing the LEAD program reflect an intelligence and humanitarian orientation toward drug issues that is rare in American policing.  He is a visionary choice to lead SPD.

Laura Thomas, MPH, MPP, Deputy State Director, San Francisco 

Drug Policy Alliance

Jim Pugel has emerged as a national leader in the effort to move law enforcement toward drug policies based in science, compassion, health, and human rights. Chief Pugel has been an effective spokesman to national and international audiences on the effectiveness of harm reduction approaches in drug law enforcement.  It is a welcome development for such an innovator in drug policy reform to take the helm in a major police department.