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Chief Diaz’s Remarks on Investigation of Officers in DC and Year-End Crime Data

Today, Chief Diaz provided an update on the investigation announced on Friday, as well as the 2020 end-of-year crime statistics. 

From Chief Diaz:

“As the Seattle Police Department stated on Friday, a member of SPD notified their chain of command that photos on social media showed several two SPD officers apparently in Washington, D.C., the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. 

After receiving the photos, I shared them late Thursday night with Office of Police Accountability (OPA) Director Andrew Myerberg and asked him for a review. On Friday, when it was clear an investigation would be needed to determine if they did or did not participate in the violent events or any violations of federal law, I decided it was essential to our commitment to transparency and enhancing public trust that we share this information with the community. 

I cannot go into details of the investigation now that it is under the purview of OPA, but I can clarify a few points. 

When I referred it to OPA, it was not apparent exactly where the photo was taken, or if those in the photo took any part in attacking the Capitol. 

I placed the identified officers on administrative leave because of the significance of what occurred in Washington, D.C. 

I did this considering that participating in a political event on their own time, out of uniform, violates no policy or law. I do not want to limit anyone’s ability to lawfully participate in First Amendment activities. 

The large number of people who forced their way into the Capitol, connected to the earlier political rally, presented too much of an unknown about whether any of our employees had potentially violated federal law. That is why I had to act. 

Given the seriousness of what took place – out of an abundance of caution, I asked OPA to conduct an investigation. 

If OPA finds any evidence any officers were directly involved, they will be fired and the information will be shared with federal officials. 

I made it very clear when I assumed this position, that any violation of community trust or any action that threatens our ability to serve this city will be met with full accountability. 

We cannot violate the same laws we are sworn to protect. 

We cannot allow violent or intimidating direct action to become acceptable in our society.

If any SPD employee participated directly in assaulting the Capitol, I will terminate them. 

That is an important point to end this part of this press event on – this department DOES NOT believe in or support this type of behavior. 

About one month ago we announced we are joining the National ABLE project – the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement training out of Georgetown University’s Law Center. SPD had been looking for an effective training in this area and the Office of Inspector General also recommended implementing such a program.

This training gives every SPD employee the skills and tools to prevent misconduct, reduce mistakes, and promote health and wellness. It helps employees know how to overcome the very real inhibitions we all face about calling out our colleagues if they are doing something we know is wrong. 

In this case, we know about it because an employee told their chain of command. They saw behavior they thought might violate the values of this department and they spoke up. I thank them for that. 

Even if nothing against policy or law happened in this case – it needed to be reviewed. That is the type of accountability we expect. 

As we all know, 2020 was a year like no other. We know, both because of COVID and other events, that the number of calls to 911 dropped throughout most of the year. Due to the pandemic, we all changed our behaviors. Stores closed. People stopped going to their places of work. Bars and restaurants were severely restricted.

So, telling you that certain reported crimes are up or down compared to 2019 – I believe has less meaning this year than any other. 

Nonetheless, we are sharing for your information, online, the current year-end reported Major Crime stats.

I want to focus on where we ended the year in homicides. First, because any loss of life is unacceptable, and because we know from research that almost all homicides eventually become known to police regardless of what happens to the reporting of other crimes.

Across the country in 2020, almost all major cities reported significant increases in homicides and shots fired. Some reports show murder increased 36% in 2020 compared to 2019 across the United States. 

In Seattle, we ended 2020 with 50 people who were willfully murdered. In 2019, there were 31 individuals killed.

That represents a 61% increase, or 19 additional people who were murdered this year.

This was the highest number of murders in 26 years. 

This is unacceptable. We cannot tolerate this level of violence. 

Our homicide detectives also investigated 2 delayed deaths resulting from injuries sustained in 2015, and they investigated the recovery of the bodies on Alki, where those individuals were killed outside of Seattle. 

I want to thank our officers, crime scene investigators and homicide detectives for doing such incredible work. They have worked every one of these cases with exhaustive effort and have successfully brought justice to the families of those killed in a majority of these cases.  

60% of 2020 homicides were committed with a gun, compared to 66% in 2019. 

Most of the victims are males between the ages of 18-29 and 30-49. 

And, most, 25 or 49%, were Black. 

I’m not going to go into the multiple theories I’m aware of for why we and other cities had such a large one-year increase. There’s no one clear explanation. But I do know the department is working to decrease the violence. 

We continue to submit recovered shell casings and crime guns to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. 

This year we logged over 240 connections to other criminal events with a gun – and over 150 were directly connected to crimes in Seattle. 

For the 4th year in a row we took over 1,000 guns off the street. 

Late last year, Chief Best and I asked King County Public Health Director Patty Hayes to help convene a meeting to approach our gun violence issues as a regional public health issue. Over the last year SPD has been a partner at the table outlining all current efforts and gaps in the system for preventing and responding to gun violence, both with and without the involvement of law enforcement. 

We are working with City Partners and community regarding shots fired incidents, so trusted members of the communities experiencing this violence can respond, make connections, offer services and help end the violence. 

For those individuals intent on committing gun violence, we are working with the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office and the ATF to refresh task forces that have been successful at taking dangerous individuals off the street.

These efforts are being guided by a commitment that addressing violent crime does not need to mean high levels of enforcement in communities already suffering. We are focused on the individuals we know are carrying guns, calling shots, and pulling triggers.  We know that associations with guns increases the risk of being injured or killed – to build the community capacity that can prevent future violence, we have to stop the bleeding right now.

Illegally carrying or using a gun needs to come with the highest levels of accountability so we can create the space for services to hopefully more permanently end the violence. 

At the end of 2020 we saw the numbers trending down, and we are committed to a 2021 that not only has lower numbers than the highs of 2020, but the relatively low numbers of 2019. I know the officers are out there doing the work – responding to shots fired, taking guns off the street, and working with community to reduce the frequency of people carrying guns. This work will take more input than just the police department, but we will continue to do our part.”