SEATTLE — A couple of big questions loom after the resignation of Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.
First, comes the search for a permanent successor in a critical time for the SPD because of major reforms that are just getting underway. And should the search for a permanent successor, which is chosen by the Mayor, happen this year, in the midst of a mayoral campaign, or wait until after the election when we’ll know if Mike McGinn will still be in office?
Second, will reform and the effort to root out excessive force get stalled or delayed because of the change at the top?
“The Consent Decree is a roadmap, regardless of who sits in the chief’s chair,” said the ACLU’s Jennifer Shaw, who was a key player in pushing the Department of Justice to step in and mandate reform at the SPD.
Shaw isn’t troubled by the change in leadership, now that there is a federal agreement in place.
“We can’t expect everyone to stay around the entire time,” she said. “It’s more important that we all, and that the city leadership, continue to keep an eye on meeting all of the deadlines.”
Shaw notes that in Los Angeles, a new chief was named two years into that city’s federal consent decree, and it actually helped the process.
“The difference there, I think, was pretty marked,” Shaw said. “There was a lot of resistance to implementing and then they brought in Chief Bratton.”
She said Bratton “understood the importance of working with the monitor.”
Shaw doesn’t worry about an existing consent decree scaring off future candidates for the permanent chief position. However, she is concerned about conducting the search in the middle of a heated mayoral election, something that happened four years ago. McGinn said Monday a likely successor won’t be named until after the election. But Shaw said a search could throw a wrench into reforms.
“It seemed very disruptive to have a search committee start work, and then stop because of the elections and then start up again,” Shaw said.
City councilmember Tim Burgess, who is challenging Mike McGinn in this year’s election, believes the search should wait until after November. “We’re not going to get the best candidates nationally if we do this in the midst of a mayoral election,” Burgess said.
But none of this year’s candidates to replace McGinn see it the same as Burgess.
“Having an interim chief always gives you that sort of cloud of a temporary feel,” said City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. He urges “a sense of urgency and clarity as move forward to pick a new police chief.”