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As Seattle City Hall Turns: The SPD Chronicles

June 14, 2010

Seattle has been without a permanent police chief since President Obama snagged former chief Gil Kerlikowski to be our nation’s drug czar over a year ago.

The responsibility to fill the job fell to first time Mayor Mike McGinn.  He looked to a 25 person panel to for recommendations.  The list of eleven finalists was finally reduced to 3; Interim Chief John Diaz, Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel and East Palo Alto California Police Chief Ron Davis.

People in the Mayor’s office say hizzoner was leaning heavily towards Sacramento’s Chief Rick Braziel, who was also recommended by SPD’s Union, along with Diaz.

But then, without much explanation or warning, last week Braziel withdrew his name for consideration, leaving Mayor McGinn in a lurch. Insiders say the city’s top brass is devastated that Braziel withdrew, and that clearly he was the Mayor’s top choice.

The union quickly stepped forward and said 30 year vet and department insider Interim Chief John Diaz should be immediately named the new Chief.  They point to his leadership during one of the most difficult years in the department’s history, and say his ability to lead is unquestionable.  They also say the 3rd finalist, Chief Davis, isn’t nearly qualified for the job.

But if the decision seems like a no brainer for the union, it apparently is a little more complicated for the Mayor.

The evidence?  He hasn’t immediately appointed Diaz to be Chief.  So the question becomes, why not? After all, he has a lot of support for the job.

Well, he also has a lot of opposition, a sect which is growing and getting louder.  They say Diaz is too much of a department insider and that he’ll work to protect the status quo, whether that’s a good thing or not.

Whispers about issues in his past are getting louder. We don’t know what those issues are, or how relevant they may be because, while those in the mainstream news media are aware of the issues, they’ve barely hinted at them and certainly haven’t reported them in detail.

Nevertheless, the opposition is using said issues- whatever they are- to bolster their case for why Diaz should not be chief.  It seems for now at least, it’s working.

Will Diaz win out and become Seattle’s next police chief?  Will the Mayor risk jeopardizing an already shaky relationship with the union and name the underdog Ron Davis from Palo Alto as the next top cop?

If there is a repetitive theme we’ve seen from these various episodes of the Seattle City Hall soap opera I’ve dubbed, “As Seattle Turns,” its that our protagonist Mike McGinn is no decider.  We may have to wait yet another whole season of episodes before we can add the new character of police commissioner to this underwhelming drama.

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