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After Tumultuous Three Years, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz Will Step Down

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz in 2009.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
Seattle Police Chief John Diaz in 2009.

With his department under the watch of the federal government, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz announced today he was stepping down.

The Seattle Times reports:

"Diaz, who has been with the Seattle Police Department for more than 30 years, didn't say why he decided to retire now.

"Diaz has been under close scrutiny since the Department of Justice (DOJ) found in December2011 that Seattle police officers had engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive force and displayed evidence of biased policing. The DOJ and the City of Seattle reached a settlementin July requiring the department to adopt sweeping reforms.

"'We've gone through some challenges,' he said during the news conference."

Last year, NPR's Martin Kaste reported that Seattle is hardly the first place you'd expect to be under the watch of the feds.

But the Justice Department said that in a review of cases where police officers used force, they found it was "done in an unconstitutional and excessive manner nearly 20 percent of the time."

As Martin reported, the scrutiny began "after the shooting death of John T. Williams, a homeless man of Native Canadian descent." Martin goes on:

"Chris Stearns, a lawyer on the city's Human Rights Commission, recalls that Williams was killed for walking across a street carrying a carving knife and a piece of wood.

"'It's all on videotape,' Stearns says. 'He was given a warning to drop the knife, and it just happened so quickly. It's amazing how quickly it happened.'

"The shooting was ruled unjustified, and the young cop involved left the force, though he was not prosecuted."

The Seattle PI reports that Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel will become interim chief. Diaz's resignation goes into effect in May.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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