S EATTLE Police Chief John Diaz’s abrupt retirement on Monday was unexpected, but it does not come as a profound surprise.
The Seattle Police Department is snared in a troubling dynamic of harsh performance reviews and assessments that all speak to apparent lapses of leadership, senior management and training.
Each disturbing insight into the department’s failure to perform led to the unavoidable question: Who is in charge?
Diaz’s retirement, three years after his appointment, and Mayor Mike McGinn’s appointment of Assistant Chief Jim Pugel as interim chief were announced Monday at a relentlessly upbeat media briefing. The timing is odd at best.
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Last week city prosecutors added to a litany of disturbing reports with the announcement that a Seattle police officer could not be charged with assault related to an incident last summer because the police department had botched the investigation.
The department’s failure to obtain a use-of-force report from the officer in August echoed the heart of a federal Department of Justice report in December 2011 that found a pattern of excessive force, with intimations of biased policing.
This comes on top of a harsh outside review of the command staff’s handling of the May Day 2012 protests.
Each of these indictments of the department’s management and oversight goes to a lack of leadership and no clear articulation of expectations.
Diaz might have been poorly served by a handful of those below him, but he is suffering the consequences for a documented record of troubling departmental failures.
The trouble spots are clearly revealed for the next chief. The search for and selection of the new chief should wait until after the current mayoral election campaign.