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Originally published March 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 16, 2009 at 1:32 PM

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Nickels' choice for interim police chief facing backlash

Seattle Deputy Police Chief John Diaz said Sunday he has accepted an offer from Mayor Greg Nickels to serve as interim police chief. But Diaz said he planned to ask Nickels if he wants to go through with the appointment in light of efforts by some detractors in the department to damage his reputation. Nickels is scheduled to announce his choice at 1 p.m. today.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Deputy Police Chief John Diaz said Sunday he has accepted an offer from Mayor Greg Nickels to serve as interim police chief if Chief Gil Kerlikowske leaves to become the nation's drug czar.

However, Diaz said he planned to ask Nickels if he wants to go through with the appointment in light of efforts by some detractors in the department to damage his reputation.

Nickels is to announce his choice at 1 p.m. today.

Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said Sunday he would not discuss the appointment but said there was an "unjust" effort to undermine Diaz.

The interim appointment would occur if Kerlikowske's nomination by President Obama to serve as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Kerlikowske's appointment was announced Wednesday by Vice President Joseph Biden.

Diaz, 51, said he accepted Nickels' offer because of his long-standing dedication to the department.

"I'm doing this out of a sense of duty and because I love the place," the 29-year department veteran said.

Diaz said he also was interested in applying for the permanent position when a search begins.

He said he was aware that some members of the department were privately working to undermine his interim appointment, questioning his treatment of those working under him.

Diaz said this was occurring because, as deputy chief of operations, he has been involved in disciplining officers and taken stands unpopular with the police union.

"I've been at the point of many of those decisions," Diaz said. He and Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, chief of administration, are the second-highest-ranking officers in the department.

Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, has privately told Nickels the Guild has serious problems with Diaz, according to a City Hall source familiar with the discussion.

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O'Neill did not respond to a phone message Sunday.

Diaz began his career with the Seattle Police Department in 1980, according to the department's official biography.

He spent five years working night patrol in the South Precinct before being promoted to sergeant in 1985.

As a sergeant, Diaz worked in internal investigations and the East Precinct before he was promoted to lieutenant in 1990.

In 1992, Diaz was promoted to captain. In that role, he commanded Crimes Against Property, Criminal Intelligence, the East Precinct, Domestic Violence and Violent Crimes sections.

In 2000, he was named assistant chief, overseeing the Special Operations Bureau for the East and South precincts. Shortly after a department reorganization in 2001, he was promoted to deputy chief.

Diaz now oversees two patrols bureaus, the Criminal Investigations Bureau and Metro Special Response.

Staff reporter Bob Young contributed to this report.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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