The Mayor's office was kind enough to allow me to go to the media interviews with the 3 candidates for police chief.
First up was Interim Chief John Diaz. Low-key is definitely the by-word here (maybe even anemic). There is no doubting his sincerity and commitment to SPD. However, when I asked him about his thoughts on policing in the school district or programs to curb youth violence, I got a whole lotta nothing. I followed up, thinking maybe he didn't understand me, but it was just a lot of blah, blah, blah about working with the district. For my narrow perspective, it was disappointing.
Second, was Chief Ron Davis from East Palo Alto. After Diaz, it was akin to "now for something completely different". This guy was very open, very charming (maybe too much so) but he really answered questions. He said that he has a close relationship with his superintendent. He stated that a lot of youth violence, before it hits the streets, shows up at school so it's good to catch it early. He also talked about a 13-week curriculum from the Justice Department about gangs, he spoke of a Youth explorer program (interning) and he supports truancy officers. (This came up right before the media event when Councilman Burgess was on KUOW and mentioned that possibly some of the Families and Education levy might go towards truancy officers.)
Last was Chief Rick Braziel from Sacramento. He is an easy-going, friendly man, also very enthused about coming to Seattle. When I asked him about schools and his office, he just had a lot to say. I mentioned that Councilwoman Bagshaw had mentioned the schools in Sacramento that had a police training element to them.
He said that they had 4 magnet academies that had a class on law enforcement with uniformed officers. He said it was popular and they were expanding to a 5th school. He also mentioned they were opening a 6-12 charter school with a public safety emphasis for firefighting and police work. He called it "growing his staff". He also mentioned testifying to the state legislature about truancy and that public education is about public safety. He created a youth advisory committee made up of students from private, charter and public schools to get input from them. He said that his concern was that many efforts are directed to high school when he feels kids need to be reached earlier at 5th, 6th, and 7th grades. Impressive.
So, from a public education perspective, I think both Davis and Braziel have good ideas and good attitudes to offer our district. As for whether either are the best person overall for the job, I don't know.
It struck me that picking a police chief is somewhat like picking a district superintendent. They need to lead and inspire a corp of people (cops and teachers), they need the support of their leaders (the School Board and the Mayor/City Council) and they need the belief in their abilities from the people they serve (parents/community and the public).