04/08/2013

Seattle chief retires amid use of force order

Mayor Mike McGinn said Assistant Chief Jim Pugel will be named interim chief

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Seattle Police Chief John Diaz retired Monday as his department faces a court order involving use of force by officers.

The announcement came after difficult negotiations led the Police Department to enter a court agreement with the federal Justice Department last summer to address concerns that officers were too quick to use force.

Diaz has been criticized for his leadership style.

City Councilman Tim Burgess, who is running for mayor, said Diaz was too slow to adopt new strategies for preventing crime and to embrace the changes sought by the federal agency.

Burgess had said he would fire Diaz if elected.

Diaz is a 33-year veteran and the department's first minority chief.

Mayor Mike McGinn said Assistant Chief Jim Pugel will be named interim chief.

The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation after the fatal shooting of a homeless, Native-American woodcarver and other incidents involving force used against minority suspects.

A report by the agency found officers were too quick to reach for weapons such as flashlights and batons, even when arresting people for minor offenses.

Surveillance cameras and police-cruiser videos had captured officers beating civilians, including stomping on a prone Latino man who was mistakenly thought to be a robbery suspect, and an officer kicking a non-resisting black youth in a convenience store.

The earlier Justice Department report found that force was used unconstitutionally one out of every five times an officer resorted to it. The department failed to adequately review the use of force and lacked policies and training related to the use of force, it said.

The settlement requires the Seattle Police Department to revise use of force policies and enhance training, reporting, investigation and supervision for situations involving use force.

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