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Originally published August 9, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Page modified August 10, 2010 at 3:24 PM

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City Council confirms Diaz as Seattle's new police chief

The Seattle City Council on Monday confirmed Interim Police Chief John Diaz as the city's new police chief.

Seattle Times staff reporter

John Diaz responded to his confirmation as Seattle's new police chief by acknowledging, "absolutely, I have a lot of work to do here."

In the weeks leading up to Monday's vote by the City Council, critics, especially in the African-American community, have assailed Diaz for failing to repair the strained relations between police and Seattle's black community, particularly after a highly publicized incident in which a white officer punched a black teenage jaywalker.

But the council and citizens praised Diaz's commitment to his work and his efforts to reach out to the community. Some critics even said they will work with him as he drops the word "interim" from his title and takes over the department.

Anwar Peace, who earlier this month called Diaz a "Band-Aid" on the community's wounds, said he shook hands recently with the new chief and admired his "pure love and passion for this city."

Diaz, after his confirmation, said he considered building peace to be his No. 1 goal. He said he planned to focus on fighting crime, decreasing residents' fear of crime and building the community.

"I will do everything I can to continue to not disappoint and make sure that I'm doing the best job possible for this city," he said.

The council vote to confirm Diaz was 8-0, with Councilmember Richard Conlin absent. Diaz will be officially sworn in Monday at City Hall.

The council asked Diaz for quarterly reports on their priorities, including training for officers in de-escalating tense situations, stricter discipline for officers and community policing.

"We all want you to be successful, we all want you to soar," said Tim Burgess, chairman of the council's Public Safety and Education Committee.

Diaz, a Latino, is the department's first minority chief and the first permanent chief chosen from within the department's ranks in more than 30 years. He replaces Gil Kerlikowske, who left last year to become head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration.

After a lengthy search process, Diaz was selected June 24 by Mayor Mike McGinn over Ron Davis, chief of police in East Palo Alto, Calif.

Diaz, 53, has been with the department since 1980 and worked his way up through the ranks. He was named deputy chief in 2001 before being tabbed as interim chief with Kerlikowske's departure.

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"It's been a tough 18 months since I took over," he said after his confirmation. "It's been one of the most tragic years we've had, at least in my time here."

As interim chief, Diaz has faced several crises, including the fatal shooting of Officer Tim Brenton and the wounding of his partner on Halloween night, and the apprehension of the accused gunman, Christopher Monfort, by Seattle detectives on the day of Brenton's funeral.

A month later, Seattle police were drawn into the intense manhunt for Maurice Clemmons, who killed four Lakewood police officers in a Pierce County coffee shop. The manhunt ended Dec. 2 when a Seattle officer fatally shot Clemmons.

In May, video footage surfaced showing a gang detective and a patrol officer kicking a Latino man, with one using ethnically inflammatory language.

And then there was the June 14 jaywalking stop — also caught on video — in which a Seattle police officer punched a 17-year-old African-American girl in Rainier Valley after she pushed him.

McGinn pointed to Diaz's handling of the latter two incidents as the main reason why he nominated him to be Seattle's permanent chief.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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