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Letter From Chief Diaz Regarding Discipline

UPDATE 5/13/21:

Chief’s Response to Community Concerns

The Seattle Police Department received many questions today about the next steps in accountability for the events of last summer.

Chief Diaz issued the following statement:

“The closing of the OPA case in question was not the end of the Department’s response to learning from and responding to the events of that day. I have always been committed to accountability for the totality of this incident and I remain committed to accountability. I apologize for the impacts to the community. The only aspect I disagreed with was the OPA’s finding and recommendation that the Named Employee — whose position was steps down in the chain of command — should be held responsible for the decisions of others. During this investigation and the resulting discipline process, as well as on-going broader assessments of what occurred that day, additional information has surfaced which was not included in the OPA investigation. With the pending case now resolved within its required timelines, I anticipate being able to quickly and fully reach a conclusion on who was accountable for the actions on that day and delivering appropriate accountability.

I am committed to full accountability and transparency for all of our actions, but I am also committed to ensuring that I reach every decision correctly and fairly.“

Chief Adrian Diaz

Original Post:

To the Seattle community:

Today, I submitted a letter to Mayor Durkan and Council President Gonzalez advising of my decision to change the OPA Director’s recommended finding of “Sustained” to “Not Sustained – Training Referral” in OPA Case No. 2020-0334, arising out of a protest event of this past summer. 

As I state in this letter, my reasons for doing so are rooted in principles of fundamental fairness: In this case, “decisions were made at levels of command above the Named Employee that bore directly on the Named Employee’s actions and thus actions taken by officers in the field. As a simple matter of fairness, I cannot hold the Named Employee responsible for circumstances that were created at a higher level of command authority and for carrying out decisions made at a higher rank. For that reason alone, I would change the finding.”

In issuing this decision, I am well aware of the scrutiny that this will generate among some.  I provide this letter in the interest of transparency and in order to explain in full my reasoning.  While I am also aware that some may seek to leverage this decision for their own purposes, my record on discipline speaks for itself: since taking over as Chief of Police in early September 2020, I have terminated the employment of eight SPD employees. Two additional SPD employees retired in lieu of being terminated. Here’s when they were fired or left the Department, and why:

October 2, 2020 – Officer – Dishonesty, Misuse of Position and Professionalism;

October 23, 2020 – Officer – Dishonesty, Professionalism, Misuse of Position, Violation of Law;

November 3, 2020 – Officer – Violating Bias Free Policing, Professionalism;

January 27, 2021 – Police Recruit – Integrity and Substance Abuse;

February 4, 2021 – Parking Enforcement Officer – Violation of Equal Employment Opportunity Policy;

April 2, 2021 – 911 Dispatcher – Violating Bias Free Policing, Professionalism;

April 12, 2021 – Lieutenant – Dishonesty, Misuse of Position, Professionalism (this Lieutenant retired in lieu of termination);

April 21, 2021 – Officer – Dishonesty, Professionalism, Use or Possession of Controlled Substances, Violation of Law (this Officer retired in lieu of termination);

April 23, 2021 – Data Specialist – Violation of Law, Misuse of Position, Misuse of Criminal Justice Record System;

May 5, 2021 – Police Student Officer – Pattern of Complaints.

I did not take these actions lightly, just as I did not take the present decision lightly; I hold SPD employees to a high standard of care and performance. That is reflected not only in my disciplinary decisions, but in the critical reforms to policy and training that have since been implemented, in a reorganization of command structure around crowd management, and in SPD’s collaboration with the Office of the Inspector General as it continues its work in examining — in partnership with the community — the Department’s response to the events of last summer. 

Since I joined this Department more than two decades ago, regaining the trust of Seattle’s communities and delivering public safety services through professional, effective, and compassionate policing has been — and will continue to be — my highest priority.

Chief Adrian Diaz