KCTS 9 Connects/Seattle Police Chief John Diaz - May 11, 2012

CNX: John Diaz
  • KCTS 9 Connects

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz

Join host Enrique Cerna as he talks with Seattle police Chief John Diaz about the arrests related to the May Day violence. Plus we discuss the Department of Justice investigation, the recent spike in shooting deaths, and the Seattle police department's 20/20 initiative.

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About the Episode

Join host Enrique Cerna as he talks with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz about the arrests related to the May Day violence. Plus we discuss the Department of Justice investigation, the recent spike in shooting deaths, and the Seattle police department's 20/20 initiative.

Chapter 1: Interview with John Diaz

Chapter 2: Insiders Roundtable

Chapter 3: Seattle Children's Hospital's "Stronger" music video goes viral

About John Diaz

Chief Diaz began his career with the Seattle Police Department in 1980. He became the Interim Chief of Police on May 7, 2009, and was sworn into office as the permanent police chief by Mayor McGinn on August 16, 2010.

Enrique Cerna:
It's been a challenging year for the Seattle police department and its chief, John Diaz. In December, the justice department released a scathing report on the use of excessive force by Seattle police and called for major reform in the department. Mayor Mike McGinn and chief Diaz have since come out with a package of reforms called SPD 20/20. But it remains to be seen if that will be enough to satisfy the justice department. As 2012 began, there was a sudden spike in violent crime and homicides in the city. And then came the may day demonstrations. A group of about 60 protesters, most dressed in black, took to the streets of downtown Seattle, intent on causing mayhem. They damaged property, assaulted police and others in their way. Mayor McGinn praised Seattle police for their handling of the rioting, but some business owners felt police could have done more to stop the vandalism. Seattle police chief John Diaz joins me now to talk more about the may day protest, the department's reform efforts, and other issues. And chief, welcome, good to have you here. Let's start with the may day protests and the efforts to track down those who were causing the violence, vandalism, assaulting officers and others. Where are you on trying to find those folks tonight?

John Diaz:
Okay. Great question, Enrique. Basically, one of the dilemmas that we're facing here and across the country, I've been predicting that you're going to see demonstration management changing across policing, across this country. Based on a number of things. The different tactics that are being used by a very small group to try to disrupt the peaceful protests. That's going to be one of the key things. There are some concerns about the use across the country, the use of pepper spray and other types of ways to try to break up some of these protests. So it puts police, police officers, cities, in a very real dilemma. How do you ensure that people can peacefully protest, that the community can peacefully go on their way, and then ensure that the people that are bent on violence as a way to actually deal with them, and you have to do it in a way that it's very difficult because nowadays the use of putting innocent protesters at shields in front of the officers has become a typical tactic. So the approach that we're taking with these may day protests is there's a lot of video out in this day and age, and most of the video isn't from the police department, but from all the various news outlets, from people with camera phones, et cetera. So we are really putting all those pieces together and we have a team that's been put together by assistant chief Jim Pugel, he's our chief of investigations, and they're aggressively tying pieces together, and we'll continue to arrest people and prosecute them to their fullest.

Have you gotten good cooperation from the local news outlets, as someone who used to work in local television, news directors are always a little bit leery about giving up their video, but have they been more cooperative in this type of thing because of the type of situation?

Well, once again, to not put any of the news medias in any type of a difficult situation, we're going to ensure that we end up using the legal process of asking for warrants and such, so that we can go in and gather that information. But the news media has been extremely cooperative.

Let's talk about the business community. There was a letter written by the downtown business association to the city, also expressing some concerns, feeling that the police didn't react in a preventive manner ahead of time in trying to get these folks that were going to cause violence. Have you talked to them? Have you reached out there? I mean if I was a business owner, I'd be pretty upset.

I understand that. And in fact, just yesterday, I gave a speech at the rotary, and I did touch on that very issue about the protests. So once again, let's get back to that issue of dilemma. Our primary concern, or my primary concern will always be the safety of our citizens, and of our police officers. And then ensuring that we could bring the wrong doers to justice. But the primary concern is life safety. That has to be our primary concern. There are some that felt that we could go in earlier. Now, we tried that at other protests and it's met with some success and some failure. When we've done that in the past. Innocent protesters have been hurt, have been knocked down as we're going in and trying to arrest those protesters. But what happened in this particular case, we had violent protesters that were ready to protect the people that were causing the property damage. So it was going to be a melee. The most important thing that occurred, and this is something I once again have to thank the mayor for, is once he signed that proclamation that allowed us to go in and remove basically the weapons from people who were planning on doing harm, all the rest of those larger protests that happened throughout the rest of the day happened without incident. There's many that said, well, if you knew that ahead of time, why couldn't you do that ahead of time? Well, the law doesn't allow us to do that, at least at this point.

Let's move on here and talk about the 20/20 effort, but also the department of justice and this ongoing investigation, their concerns about reforms within the department. Yesterday, you brought out the team that was going to lead up the 20/20 effort, these 20 initiatives over 20 months. Do you feel that this 20/20 initiative plan is going to be enough for the justice department to accept the reforms that they want?

I don't know if it's going to be enough for the justice department. But the, but the audience and I am really that I am really looking at is the people that live in this community. That is who I respond to, I respond to the mayor, they are the voters, that's who they respond to. This 20/20 plan is a combination of a number of things. We have groups that we're concerned about, some of the practices of the Seattle police department. And we had some valid concerns over some of those high profile incidents. I own those and I want to make that clear. I have always owned those. So some of those initiatives in the 20/20 plan were based on some of the work that was done by some of these particular community groups that we have been working with and that the mayor had been working with. Some of those, the other side of the equation is we have crime problems in this city that need to be addressed. This 20/20 plan also looks into those areas and it's looking at it from a perspective of taking an evidence based perspective, data driven perspective, one of the initiatives is really bringing together a consortium of cities from across the country that want to use Seattle somewhat as a learning lab. So we had those issues that we were trying to ensure. And in the last piece of the 20/20 initiative, some of those were, some of the recommendations that came out of the D.O.J., their initial visit, as an example, a better way of reviewing our force investigations. So it is a combination of a number of different groups that came together, and this is a very ambitious plan, but it's one that I truly believe will take us to be one of the most world class departments around the country.

Still, there is the department of justice investigation, next week is a deadline regarding these reforms. Their expectations I'm sure are high, and you're hearing about it quite a bit. One of the things that has been talked about and Jenny Durkin, who sat right in your chair about a few weeks ago here with me, U.S. attorney, a consent decree, a court ordered monitor, would be something that she wants for whatever plan of reform. How do you feel about that?

Right now, we're working with the department of justice and there are good faith negotiations going on. And that's really what I can say, it's going to continue to occur. Going back to their, when they initially came to town, even the head of special litigations, Mr. Perez, even said he was surprised and really encouraged by the approach that the department took. We, in a very short period of time, gave him over 200,000 pages of information that they requested. We probably gave them another 40,000 pages of information they didn't request, but we felt and I felt it would be helpful for them to do their investigation. We trained some of their employees on how to use our system, so that we could truly work in a collaborative process. I am convinced that the only way any solution in this city is going to be solved, it has to be a collaborative process. It cannot be something that is just one sided by one particular group. I'll give you an example. The economist glazier from Harvard, he talked about one of the greatest human developments that has ever occurred has been the creation of cities. And the reason for that is because of that, it brings people, it brings density, it brings diversity together, and it brings ideas together. Because that's where ideas come from. We have a great city. Just think of some of the amazing companies that have come from this region, you know, and there's a, just tons of them you can think of, from Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, over and over again. Once again, that shows you bring smart people together, and great things happen. This is something we should be very proud of. I talk a little bit about the best of list. And there is too much work, you can go on any website, and there are like three pages like Seattle is best of. And it's anything from the best city in the future, et cetera.

I realize you're looking for collaboration.


But can you avoid a lawsuit?

Well, once again, I don't know. What I do know is that the mayor in good faith is working in negotiations with the department of justice.

Short amount of time left here. I want to get a couple of other things. Mike Sanford, your assistant chief who was investigated guy the state patrol over some allegations of possible criminal wrongdoing, has been cleared. But yet he's heading the 20/20 effort. Does he have your support in doing all this?

He has my full and complete support. It was unfortunate that that occurred, and if you saw what some of those issues were, one of them was actually they said it was something they investigated on him, it should have been investigated on me. And that was the issue of adding the book to the sergeant's promotional exam. And the book was, it wasn't a book on anarchy, it was a book on building community. And it's by Peter Block. And it's a very good book, and it was something I wanted to add to that.

I know Peter Block, by the way. Very quickly, I wish we had a little more time. And that is the issue of crime in the city. We've seen a spike in homicides in the past, since the first of the year. We've seen some shootings and shooting deaths. A young woman that was randomly shot here. And I don't believe her killer has been found yet. What's been the cause, do you think?

Well, when you look across the country, the ready availability of weapons is always a concern. The fact some, and once again, this is a small group of people, that are willing to take a gun and use it in a very minor situation, in this case, involving this particular individual, she was truly an innocent, innocent bystander. The approach that we're taking is, trying is a variety of different innovations, and I want to keep using that word innovation because I believe we are one of the more innovative departments across the country. We've got amazing men and women that are doing amazing work out there. But some of the things we're doing as an example is really focusing on taking the guns off the street. Working with our federal partners as an example to do various sting operations. We did the Oliver Twist pawn shop project, which ended up with 900 items of evidence and 102 suspects.

Well, we must leave it there but chief, we'll continue to follow what's going on in the city here, and the 20/20 effort, as well as the D.O.J., and we'd love to talk to you about that some more.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.


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