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Seattle police chief target of racism, ‘mutiny,’ community leaders say

Community activists Victoria Beach, the Rev. Harriett Walden and Carmen Martinez held a news conference Thursday outside El Centro de la Raza to express their support for Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz.  (Mike Carter/Seattle Times)
By Mike Carter Seattle Times

A trio of women community leaders of color with personal and professional ties to Seattle police Chief Adrian Diaz say racism and a “mutiny” within the ranks of the department are behind a series of recent legal claims and accusations of sexual harassment leveled against him.

The women held a news conference Thursday outside El Centro de la Raza to voice their support for a chief they said “can’t speak for himself” due to the litigation, but wanted it known that “all hell will break loose” if Mayor Bruce Harrell fires Diaz over these allegations.

The participants included Victoria Beach, a Seattle Police Department employee who chairs the department’s African American Community Advisory Council; the Rev. Harriett Walden, founder of Mothers for Police Accountability; and Carmen Martinez, a South Park youth advocate and the Latino advisory liaison with the Police Department. They said Diaz did not know about or otherwise sanction their comments.

None of the three is involved in any of the discrimination or hostile-workplace tort claims and lawsuits filed on behalf of seven employees and pending against Diaz and the department in the last year, but all say they know Diaz and that he’s not capable of the behavior described.

“This is not fair. He cannot speak for himself” while others “make it seem like he’s guilty,” Beach said, referring to critical comments from some council members after a Black longtime Seattle police captain sued this week, alleging discrimination and retaliation when he tried to report those concerns.

The department and Diaz have been the targets of a string of claims alleging racial and gender discrimination or retaliation, with some of the behavior purported to go back decades. Several of the accusers are white female officers who claim Diaz made them uncomfortable or otherwise acted inappropriately.

“Is there racism in the Seattle Police Department? Yes,” Beach said. “Did Chief Diaz bring it? No.”

Waldren, a co-chair of the Community Police Commission – which has an oversight function for the department – dismissed those allegations as part of a “mutiny” and “blowback” from Diaz’s attempts to address these very issues.

She is convinced it is part of a pattern of racism that stretches back decades and most recently surfaced when the City Council tried to cut police funding and the salary of Chief Carmen Best, the department’s first Black chief.

“Seattle is a liberal racist town that won’t be satisfied until they get a white chief,” she said.

Martinez accused Diaz’s critics of being “disgruntled employees who didn’t get what they want and … who are not faithful to the chief.”

“Are those the type of people we want in the department?” she asked.

Martinez claims a long friendship with Diaz and said she’s never seen any inappropriate behavior on his part. She opined that if the chief were a predator, that behavior would carry into his private life and into the community.

“And nobody in the community has filed a lawsuit,” Beach said. “They’ve all been filed from within.”

All of the claims alleged workplace discrimination or retaliation.

The most recent lawsuit was filed by Capt. Eric Greening, who is Black, alleging discrimination in recent months. The department faces another claim from a retired officer who said she endured decades of discrimination while working for the department.

Last month, four female employees filed a tort claim for $5 million, alleging sexual discrimination and harassment by Diaz and other department leaders.

In January, Deanna Nollette, assistant chief over criminal investigations, filed a lawsuit alleging Diaz has a history of misogyny and retaliated against her for applying for chief. And in November, Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin filed a lawsuit alleging she faced daily racism and gender discrimination during her 43 years with the department.

The mountain of legal action taken against Diaz has brought his leadership into question. The department did not respond to an emailed request seeking comment from the chief.

In response, last month Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell hired an outside investigator to look into claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the Police Department.