All three are ex-military men who decry racial profiling, police brutality and wasteful spending. They all claim that public safety is enhanced...

All three are ex-military men who decry racial profiling, police brutality and wasteful spending.

They all claim that public safety is enhanced by developing trust between those who are policed and those who do the policing. And they say they work well with others, including politicians, rank-and-file officers, unions leaders and community members.

The finalists for Seattle police chief share many common traits and priorities, according to essays they submitted to the city in the lead-up to Tuesday’s narrowing of the field to three candidates.

Their answers to three questions from the city — dealing with racial profiling, maintaining a budget without compromising public safety and implementing staff changes while adhering to collective-bargaining requirements — offer a glimpse at how each would take on the job.

JOHN DIAZ

John Diaz, who has been interim Seattle police chief since Gil Kerlikowske was tapped as federal drug czar last year, notes that “the issue of race continues to plague us” despite the opportunities available to Americans.

The son of Mexican immigrants, Diaz has been doing damage control in recent days after a videotape surfaced showing a Seattle gang detective kicking a prone man during an investigation and threatening to “beat the [expletive] Mexican piss” out of the man. Police have launched an internal investigation into the April 17 incident.

“While many in our society may decry racial disparities, they may do so from a comfortable distance. Police officers cannot. Day in and day out, police officers confront people — as victims, as witnesses and as offenders — whose circumstances have been shaped by racial inequities,” Diaz wrote.

He wrote that he was honored by the San Francisco Youth Law Center after he took part in a task force to examine racial profiling and volunteered the Seattle department’s traffic-stop statistics for analysis. The move was not completely popular inside the department, he said, but he was proud of the participation.

Diaz said he meets with police-academy graduates and their families to discuss the city’s race and social-justice agenda and to make sure they know the department has a policy against bias-based policing. “I always quote Lincoln’s statement that most can handle adversity, but the true test of their character is how they handle power,” he wrote.

When Diaz was appointed deputy chief of administration by Kerlikowske in 2001, he was given two mandates, he wrote. One, to get national accreditation for the department and two, to overhaul and oversee the $200 million-plus budget.

Since then, he said, the budget has either been balanced or come in under projections, with the SPD able to refund some money to the city.

RICK BRAZIEL

According to Rick Braziel, Seattle is facing budget problems that Sacramento, Calif., has been grappling with for several years.

Braziel said his department has had to cut $20 million from its budget since he took command.

Faced with the possibility of having to lay off 67 officers, Braziel said he met with the Sacramento Police Officers Association [SPOA.].

“First, we held work area meetings to give all employees a transparent look at the city’s budget problems and options,” he wrote. “Secondly, the SPOA agreed to reopen the collective bargaining agreement if the overall proposal included more than economic reductions from employees.”

In 2009, the guild voted overwhelmingly to defer salary increases until their next contract, helping to save officers’ jobs and mitigate a “serious budget problem.”

Braziel said he also ordered an overhaul to the way the department entered and tracked crime data, allowing information to be gathered as crime occurs and used immediately. “Using real-time data, lieutenants come together with the responsibility and authority to deploy units within the department to address emerging crime,” he said.

Braziel said that as chief in one of country’s most racially diverse major cities, he works with minority communities, including the Mexican consulate, on sensitive issues, such as racial profiling and immigration.

He said Sacramento police have successfully implemented a cultural immersion program at the police academy and extended training for existing officers, especially for first-line supervisors and field-training officers.

RONALD DAVIS

Before Ronald Davis became the chief of police in East Palo Alto, Calif., in 2005, the Bay Area city’s crime rate was among the highest in the country and it had earned dubious distinction as the country’s “murder capital,” he wrote.

Since then, Davis said, murder is down 30 percent and civil litigation and claims against the department are down 40 percent.

Among Davis’ goals in tight financial times is to aggressively seek alternative funding for police operations through grants and public-private partnerships and to maximize existing money through better partnerships with other law-enforcement agencies and with communities.

The department was able to fund 10 percent of its staffing and reduce by 30 percent projected overtime expenses because of $15 million in funding secured by Davis and city officials.

Grant money was also used to initiate a number of programs, including a parole re-entry program that, among other things, helps parolees find jobs with the California Department of Transportation.

Recidivism rates among those in the program are less than 20 percent as opposed to the statewide average of 70 percent, Davis said.

“I do not embrace the concept that arrests are the key tool in crime fighting,” he said. “Nor do I prescribe to the belief that putting more cops on the street is the answer to all challenges.”

Davis described himself as a progressive who does not believe that all of the good ideas in policing have been exhausted.

Under his command, the department initiated a program that allows citizens to track crime in their neighborhood and receive e-mail alerts, a move that reduced calls for police response by 25 percent.

He said he has instituted a new policy in his department against what he calls the “Five Deadly Sins: Untruthfulness, Discrimination, Brutality, Retaliation Against a Witness and Accepting Gratuities.”

Violation of those tenets can be immediate grounds for termination, he said.

Davis said the first step to addressing racial and social disparities in policing is “to understand that they actually exist.”

“Too often, law enforcement denies this reality and retreats to a defensive posture whenever the hint of race is mentioned, Davis said. “… To simply bury our heads in the sand hoping that nothing happens to bring the issue of ‘race’ to the forefront is dangerous and places the organization, city and community at risk.”

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983