Chief Diaz Announces Command Staff Change

From Chief Diaz:

 May 26, 2021

Councilmember Lisa Herbold

Seattle City Hall

600 4th Avenue

Seattle, WA 98124-4769

RE:      OPA Case No. 2020-0334

Dear Councilmember Herbold,

I am writing in follow up to my letter of May 12, 2021, concerning the disposition of OPA2020-0334, and in response to your correspondence on May 13th, 2021, and again on May 17th, 2021.

In my letter, I explained the reasoning for my determination in OPA2020-0334:

There is little question that the events of last summer generally posed considerable challenges to the Department and exposed flaws in our command structure as we attempted to manage the multiple events that were occurring simultaneously in different locations around the city.  Decisions were made at levels of command above the Named Employee that bore directly on the Named Employee’s action 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. 

As I noted, I did not believe it was fair or principled to hold the Named Employee responsible for circumstances created at a higher rank of command, where fundamentally I believe accountability for the outcome of the weekend of May 29th – June 1st should land.  We owe it to both the community and to our officers who are tasked to operate within a framework rooted in command decisions to ensure that we identify and address root causes of outcomes that we all can acknowledge were problematic.  For this reason, and considering all of the information that has come before me and performance that I have personally observed, I am writing to advise that I have removed the Incident Commander from the position of Assistant Chief  and returned him to the Captain rank, as required by Seattle Municipal Code 4.08.060 (2)(a). 

In our communications immediately following my initial letter, I referenced additional information that factored into my decision.  I apologize for any confusion that reference may have created.  As the OPA Director and I have made clear, there was (and is) no separate investigation and no information that OPA did not have access to; the distinction is one of scope.  Whereas the OPA investigation focused, appropriately, on facts specific to the allegation against the Named Employee, my assessment included more broadly concerns raised by OPA in management action recommendations stemming from related cases, on-going analyses generated through the Office of Inspector General’s Sentinel Event Review, and my consideration of the totality of the events beginning on May 29th, 2020, when the Chinatown/International District was the target of destructive protests, and continuing over the days thereafter.  My decision is based on concerns and observations regarding planning, logistics, communications, decision-making, and staffing analyses that in my view laid the groundwork for the escalation of tensions that followed.  The Incident Commander for the events May 29th – June 1st was removed from the command post by Chief Best in the immediate aftermath of the incident on June 1st; today, consistent with City code, he has been returned to his former rank.  Fundamentally, I must have confidence that each and every member of this department’s sworn Command Staff, regardless of bureau assignment, be able to step into an incident command position as circumstances may require.  This demotion is a reflection of my lack of confidence in this individual’s ability to do so.

While we may from time to time disagree, I respect the thoughtful and thorough work done by OPA in this investigation and in all investigations conducted in this pivotal year in our city and country.  I am also grateful to OPA for its insight and engagement in informing new iterations of policy and training, and to the OIG for the meaningful work that office is doing through the Sentinel Event Review and its facilitation of dialogues with innovative police agencies around the world that continue to inform and advance our practices around crowd management.  While we know we have much work to do to rebuild trust with Seattle’s communities, please know that I personally, and we as a department, remain committed to moving forward with transparency, integrity, and accountability for our actions and decisions. 

Sincerely,

Adrian Diaz

Chief of Police

cc:        Jenny Durkan, Mayor

Lorena Gonzalez, Council President

            Andrew Lewis, Councilmember

            Deborah Juarez, Councilmember

            Tammy Morales, Councilmember

            Teresa Mosqueda, Councilmember

            Alex Pedersen, Councilmember

            Dan Strauss, Councilmember

            Kshama Sawant, Councilmember

            Andrew Myerberg, OPA Director

            Lisa Judge, Inspector General