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Mayor Harrell Appoints Sue Rahr Interim Police Chief, Adrian Diaz to Work on Special Assignments

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that he is appointing Sue Rahr as interim chief of the Seattle Police Department. Rahr, who has a storied history of leadership in modern policing, culture change, and recruitment, and who served as King County Sheriff, Executive Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, and a member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, will hold the position of interim chief of police. At the same time, a national search will begin for the next permanent chief. Adrian Diaz will step aside the role of chief and work on special assignments for the mayor with SPD.

“Sue Rahr is uniquely qualified to step into this position and will be an outstanding leader for our police department, focused on strengthening recruitment, advancing institutional culture change, and, most importantly, working to create safety for all Seattle neighbors,” said Mayor Harrell. “Chief Diaz has led important efforts for our administration and made progress on our public safety challenges. That said, our ongoing drive to improve department culture has revealed the need to make changes to keep this work moving forward, and Seattleites deserve a department that reflects them and their values.”

“It is an honor to help the Seattle Police Department enter its next chapter, building on my decades of experience in law enforcement leadership,” said Interim Chief Rahr. “I am committed to strengthening public safety in Seattle, recruiting the next generation of SPD officers and leadership, and creating a renewed sense of optimism in this department. I will listen carefully to our officers and the people of Seattle as I work hard to strengthen relationships with partners and the community. I will build trust with officers and the community through dialogue and action.”

“I'm proud of the work we've done together, but recognize now is the right time to step away for the best interests of the city and its people,” said Chief Diaz. “I look forward to continuing to serve our communities and neighbors and supporting the department as we move forward.”

Under Mayor Harrell and Chief Diaz, the City has taken meaningful steps to strengthen public safety and the Seattle Police Department, including launching a dual dispatch pilot with the new CARE Department, signing a new contract with the police officers’ union, implementing a new recruitment and retention plan, and achieving sustained compliance with most elements of the federal consent decree. Overall, citywide reported crime continues to fall, and the number of police recruit applications has significantly increased.

Mayor Harrell will immediately begin a national search for the next permanent chief of police. Chief Rahr will not be a candidate for the permanent appointment and will work with former Chief Kathleen O’Toole to help identify a list of qualified semi-finalist candidates who will be shared with a public committee appointed by the mayor. The public committee will review the semi-finalists and recommend a group of finalists to the mayor, who will administer the competitive examination required by the City Charter.

What People Are Saying

State Senator John Lovick, 44th Legislative District, and Former Snohomish County Sheriff

“I am thrilled to hear that Sue Rahr will be appointed as the Interim Chief of the Seattle Police Department. Most recently, we worked together on a bill I sponsored, ‘Flexible Schedules for Law Enforcement’ (ESSB 5424).  Sue’s long record of tenacious leadership to promote diversity in law enforcement has been extraordinary. Her courageous action to promote dignity and integrity in our beloved profession is rooted in her deep compassion for the people we serve.”

Barney Melekian, Past Chair, National Policing Institute Board of Directors, Former Police Chief, Pasadena, California, and President Obama’s director of the COPS office at the Department of Justice

"As a longtime colleague, I know Sue Rahr is a champion for safe communities and modern policing following national best practices. Chief Rahr will be a strong voice for implementing innovative and thoughtful policing that is equitable and values-based."

Monica Alexander, Executive Director, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center

“Sue Rahr is a strong, action-oriented leader for supporting current officers and recruiting new ones, centered on building a police department that represents the communities it serves and keeps safe. Sue will not only focus on preparing current officers with the best and most modern tactical and de-escalation training, she will bring new strategies and new energy to recruit new officers, including women and people of color, ensuring that people of all backgrounds see themselves in the department.”

Constance Rice, Civil Rights Lawyer and Social Justice Leader

“Sue Rahr is one of the deepest thinkers on policing on the national scene – her ability to solve problems and find solutions make her a terrific choice to lead the Seattle Police Department. She has the rare combination of deep knowledge of policing and practical problem-solving leadership needed to pull people together to make a difference.”

About Interim Chief Sue Rahr


Chief Rahr began her law enforcement career as a King County Sheriff's deputy in 1979. She rose through the ranks and was elected sheriff in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. In 2012, Rahr was appointed by the Governor as executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, a position she held for nine years. President Obama appointed Rahr in 2015 to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

In 2022, Chief Rahr convened a summit in Seattle to discuss the transformation of policing. Summit participants included renowned civil rights attorney Constance Rice, former New York and Los Angeles Chief William Bratton, former Los Angeles Chief Charles Beck, former Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Chief Charles Ramsey, and former U. S. Army General Stanley McChrystal. The summit produced a seven-page white paper titled Guiding Principles for Transforming American Policing.

In 2023, Chief Rahr worked closely with Senator John Lovick, a former sheriff of Snohomish County, to win passage of ESSB 5424, which, for the first time, allows police agencies in the state to employ part-time officers. This landmark legislation is especially helpful to women who want to combine a career in law enforcement with raising children.

Chief Rahr is also a subject matter expert advisor to the 30x30 Initiative, a national effort to see women comprise 30% of police recruits by 2030.

Chief Rahr has a BA in criminal justice from Washington State University. Rahr is a member of the board of directors of the National Police Institute, formerly The Police Foundation, and an advisor to the Georgetown University School of Law Center for Innovations in Community Safety. She has served as a member of the National Institute of Justice and the Harvard University Kennedy School Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety and as an executive board member of the National Sheriffs Association. She graduated from the National Sheriff’s Institute and the FBI National Executive Institute.

Two articles Chief Rahr has written on police reform are noteworthy. From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals (Harvard Kennedy School, April 2015) makes the case for moving away from the warrior mindset in policing to one of guardianship. Rahr is the first police leader to advocate for this transformation. The second article, The Myth Propelling America’s Violent Police Culture (The Atlantic, January 2023), is a forthright memoir about her experience as a sheriff deputy.

 

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