Some say it's a shame to see him go. But almost everyone agreed it was also probably time for Seattle Police Chief John Diaz to step down.
Depending on who you ask, Diaz either leaves a legacy of progressive policing or a department stuck in its own troubled past.
There is no doubt Diaz' career as chief has been tumultuous one. He oversaw a police force that the Department of Justice found had a pattern of excessive force and biased policing.
Even so, the mayor preferred to focus on Diaz’s accomplishments: “The department, too, hasn’t shied away from holding itself accountable. In the case of John T. Williams the department found the shooting was unjustified and took action.”
But there were other incidents, even a call for his resignation. Critics say he led a department consumed more by self interest than the public interest.
“We feel like there’s a culture of cover-up, a culture of indifference and creating an illusion of change as opposed to actual change. Ad we do feel Chief Diaz and others have been a part of that,” said James Bible of the regional chapter of the NAACP.
“Every place I look I’m seeing innovation going on throughout the department. I couldn’t be prouder,” said Diaz.
Proud of the work he's done—yet Diaz acknowledges there is a lot more to be done. He leaves a department still under a microscope, still answering to the feds, and always answering to the people.
“He isn’t being forced out,” said Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill, “He’s had a distinguished career and I think it’s time for him.”
Officials' statements on Diaz's resignation
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan:
I have worked closely with Chief John Diaz for many years. He has been a key partner in addressing gun violence, dismantling criminal organizations, and combatting terrorist threats. He oversaw the first steps of the implementation of reforms within the Seattle Police Department. I am grateful for his partnership and service, and wish him well.
This is a critical time for SPD and our community. Jim Pugel has shown before that he can step up and lead. To move us forward, he will need to help guide and implement the full range of reforms and set clear expectations and direction for every officer. The next several months are very important for reform and public accountability. SPD will be drafting and adopting new policies and developing new training around use of force, bias-free policing, and stops. Getting reform right requires everyone moving in the same direction. Chief Pugel's leadership will be essential.
Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper:
Chief Diaz's heart was in the right place, and he did his best to steer the department down the right path. But the institution itself needs a major overhaul. I hope the chief's successor is given both the direction and the latitude necessary to make that happen. Meanwhile, I wish John the very best in his retirement.
Seattle Attorney Peter Holmes:
"With best wishes for a happy retirement (and some envy), I must say it has been an honor to work with Chief John Diaz during a challenging time for the Seattle Police Department and the City as a whole. He has helped prepare SPD for the reform effort now under way, and richly deserves some R&R before pursuing the next chapter in his life. I hope he will remain involved in police reform efforts throughout the country. I look forward to working with Interim Chief Jim Pugel to continue to advance these critical reforms and to ensure that public safety remains our first priority for Seattle."