King County has hired former Seattle Police Chief John Diaz to oversee the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention until a new director is found, according to the county executive’s office.
Diaz, who was police chief from 2010 to 2013, will serve as interim director and assist the county in its search for a permanent director. The county has yet to hire someone for the role, after launching two national searches, according to a statement from Executive Dow Constantine’s office.
In addition to helping with recruitment, Constantine said Diaz will focus on reducing the use of restrictive housing, or solitary confinement, and coordinating the Road Map to Zero Youth Detention project with Public Health — Seattle & King County.
Constantine said Diaz will also resolve operating and labor challenges, such as mandatory overtime at detention facilities. A February report by The Seattle Times found corrections officers at King County jails worked more than 188,000 hours in overtime last year, which some described as a breaking point.
The county has been searching for a new director since former director William Hayes retired in October.
Diaz began his career with the Seattle Police Department as a patrol officer in 1980. Before becoming chief, he served as deputy chief, managing 1,900 employees and a $250 million budget, according to the executive’s statement. At different points in his time with the department, Diaz represented the department in labor negotiations.
Diaz, who is Latino, was named interim chief in 2009 before being sworn in August 2010, becoming the first person of color to lead the department. Known as a soft-spoken leader, Diaz took the reins at a time of intense public scrutiny after videos of officers confronting people of color went viral. He led the department through a Department of Justice investigation before retiring in 2013.
The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention’s approximately 1,000 employees staff the King County Jail, Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, juvenile jail and community corrections, according to the department.