The three men running for police chief all have strengths (some more than others) and weaknesses (including an Achilles heel). You can see background on it here, here, here, and here. They were all in town last week and more than examining their resumes, we got a sense of their personalities, what each of them do well—and where they fail.
Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel:
PROS: Runs a department with 800 sworn officers, compared to Seattle's 1,350 officers. Calls himself an "ideas guy" who partnered with social service programs to create Attendance Centers for school truants and at-risk youth. He appointed police officers to protect the city's homeless population—officers nicknamed Batman and Robin by the transient community they serve. Braziel also looks like Clark Kent and has reduced crime in Sacramento the last two years, despite cutting his budget by roughly 27 million dollars. He's a wildly popular figure in Sacramento and a national expert on community policing—something Seattle residents want.
CONS: Calls himself an "ideas guy," calls residents "customers," and in general loves a good cliche. Sounds a bit like a used car salesman, albeit a used car salesman who looks like Clark Kent. Not all of his ideas work, even he admits this. Last Wednesday, Braziel described his role in starting a successful police academy charter program in Sacramento public schools, but his Seattle audience was less than receptive. "Sounds like child recruitment," one audience member said.
East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis:
PROS: Won't be mistaken as a used car salesman. Charismatic. Convinced his city to embrace a felon re-entry program, which has been an ongoing issue in the Central District. "Few people are born in prisons, they're born in communities," he explained last Friday. "Whether we have a program or not, they're coming home. So do we meet them with support and services and help them try to change their lives," he asks, or does the community step back and wait for them to fail, and if so, how does that promote public safety? He's known for his work with youth, improving race relations, and quelling crime in East Palo Alto.
CONS: His department includes only 39 sworn officers compared to Seattle's 1,350 officers.
Seattle Interim Police Chief John Diaz:
PROS: Knows the Seattle Police Department inside and out. Using neighborhood surveys to target resident priorities, which officers will use to guide what they do during their down time—i.e. the time they're not actively responding to calls—so they can better serve residents. Diaz plans to make the surveys available to all city departments and collaborate to better serve neighborhoods.
CONS: According to Diaz, he's "not a sound byte guy." According to me, he doesn't know how to use the media as an effective platform to push his vision for creating a safer city. He says his personality's not going to change. That's fine, but if he retains his position, his thinking needs to change.
There you have it: the chiefs in a nutshell. Mayor Mike McGinn is poised to name one of these candidates as Seattle's next police chief pretty much any day now, so we'll soon see who successfully courted the mayor with promises of tandem bike rides and community forum footsie.