Mixed reaction to Diaz as Seattle PD chief nominee




Posted on June 24, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 24 at 6:22 PM

SEATTLE – There is mixed reaction from Seattle's minority leaders about Mayor Mike McGinn's nomination of John Diaz to become the city's new permanent police chief.

Many in Seattle's African-American community oppose Diaz as chief. It's been a long-standing friction.

"We are greatly disappointed by the decision that's been made here in Seattle," said Seattle NAACP president James Bible. "We're disappointed that the mayor, in light of all the information that we hope was available to him, made this decision."

(Editor's note: Chief Diaz will be live in our studio for an exclusive interview Friday morning on KING 5 Morning News on KONG 6/16.)

The outcry against Diaz was fueled by the April 17 incident in which a police detective was seen on video stomping on a youngLatino man and using racially-charged words and profanity.

That was followed last week by video of a jaywalking incident. A young African-American girl was seen shoving an officer and he responded by punching her in the face.

The Urban League brokered an apology from the girl. The head of the Urban League says he trusts Diaz.

"I think that Chief Diaz does have work to do in the African-American community. And, again, the Urban League is trying to be that nexus to help him out," said Urban League President James Kelley."

The Latino community watched the stomping incident video in shock, but after meeting with Diaz, who is Latino, they stand behind him.

"We have a long history of working with John, I mean in terms of his presence in the community, reaching out to us, being there," said Estella Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza.

The Seattle City Council must confirm Diaz. Councilmembers say they expect Diaz to win that confirmation, but it won't be easy.

"This is not a slam dunk. We're not going to roll over. There are some hard questions that have to be asked," said councilmember Nick Licata.

"I think he can lead the police department, but again we have to listen to the community," said councilmember Tim Burgess.

"I'm thinking I will probably vote yes, but again we’re going to have some things we want to talk with John about based on what has played out since he has become interim chief. There have been some things that have been concerning," said councilmember Sally Clark.

The Seattle Police Guild, which represents the rank-and-file officers of the department, says Diaz has proven himself.

"To me the choice was obvious," said Guild president Rich O'Neill. "Why would you go with an unproven person when you've got someone who was battle tested in the worst of times."