Yesterday black leaders from across the city came to chastise Police Chief John Diaz for perpetuating the "race problem" in Seattle and push city council members into re-opening the search for police chief during Diaz's morning confirmation hearing with the city council's Public and Safety Committee.
"Race is really a problem in Seattle," said Reverend Harriett Walden, who works with Mothers for Police Accountability and testified against Diaz. "For 18 months, when the chief was interim, he never came to our community. We want innovation, we want change, and we don’t think the chief can do that." Walden was also a member of the police chief search committee, which slogged through months of meetings to gather public input on Seattle's next police chief, and finally narrowed the 11 finalists down to three semi-finalists.
"I look at Chief Diaz and I look at a man whose résumé looks good," said Charles Oliver, regional president for Blacks in Government. "He just hasn't shown the leadership for a leader that we would like."
President of the NAACP, James Bible, said that the NAACP was "prepared to work with anyone" but cautioned the council that "kids in our community don’t talk to law enforcement... We don’t see any change here."
In the end, what these leaders want is a new chief.
"We're opposed to the confirmation of John Diaz," said Charles Oliver, regional president of Blacks in Government. "We don't think he's shown leadership."
During the meeting, the city council questioned Diaz extensively on his record, his vision, his priorities, his hopes, his dreams—you can read his 30 pages of answers here: .pdf. It's a thrilling read. But when questioned by the city council on whether he'll bring about change within the department if confirmed, Diaz wrote: "I am the same person now that I have been during my 30-year career in SPD, so the short answer is no."
This kind of answer has not only black leaders, but business leaders, worried. Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association—and co-chair of the police chief search committee—testified that being on the search committee showed her that "there are other departments doing things better than us—doing interesting, innovative things in training biases and eliminating racial profiling. We need better processes for bringing women and people of color into leadership... I hope we come into this confirmation with that in mind. We're genuinely looking for change."
Diaz didn't have a chance to respond to yesterday's public's comments. Another public hearing is slated for Wednesday, July 28th at 5:00 p.m. in council chambers.