As first reported by The Stranger, Seattle Chief of Police Adrian Diaz stepped down from his position on Tuesday amid a flurry of lawsuits over a culture of sexism and racism at the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and rumors about an inappropriate relationship with a top aide.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr has stepped up to replace him as Interim Chief of Police, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced at a press conference Wednesday. Harrell emphasized her expertise in recruitment, particularly as it relates to hiring women. 

Harrell said Rahr, the former Executive Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, has no plans to apply for the top job permanently, and he expects to keep her in the role for up to six months as the City launches a national search for a new permanent police chief. Harrell said the department plans to consider internal candidates, but he pretty clearly gave a preference to external applications, saying he had concerns that an internal candidate couldn’t make the type of cultural changes that SPD requires.

While discussing Diaz’s demotion, Harrell said the chief inherited a cultural problem at SPD. Harrell stressed his confidence in Diaz and announced that Diaz would stay on to work on special assignments for SPD with the Mayor’s Office. The Mayor gave no details about the duties of that role, which rank Diaz would assume, or whether he’d keep his approximately $370,000 per year salary. Those decisions would be left up to Rahr, who steps into the role of Interim Chief first thing Thursday. 

Harrell denied that any one thing led to Diaz stepping down, but he did say the number of investigations and complaints against the chief would distract him from running the Seattle Police Department effectively. Harrell also said keeping Diaz as head of the department could lead people with complaints to fear retaliation. 

The announcement comes the day after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) sent an internal email about a complaint against Diaz over allegations about his hiring of a top aide, with whom he allegedly had an intimate relationship. The investigation breathes new life into the rumors about the relationship, which Diaz had ferociously tried to quash last year, and which an employee admitted to inventing.

The complaint to OIG comes after seven employees filed claims and lawsuits against Diaz for fostering a sexist and racist working environment at SPD and retaliating against officers who spoke up. These complaints led the Mayor to hire an outside firm to investigate the allegations, an investigation which is still ongoing. Earlier in the month in an interview with KOMO, Harrell promised to let the investigation play out and afford Diaz “due process,” but he noted that the allegations had gotten his administration’s attention.

Near the end of the press conference, SPD Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Beach laid into Harrell for Diaz’s demotion, saying the investigation into the allegations hadn’t yet finished. 

“This is wrong. Nobody is safe in the Seattle Police Department, nobody,” Beach said. 

Editor's note: This article was clarified regarding the OIG complaint.