A recently demoted Seattle police commander has filed a $5.48 million discrimination and retaliation claim against the city, alleging interim police Chief Adrian Diaz made him the scapegoat during last year’s police clashes with racial justice demonstrators.
Capt. Steve Hirjak says in the claim, filed Thursday, that Diaz demoted and falsely blamed him for the improper actions of another commander, who gave riot-gear clad officers the orders to use tear gas and blast balls into a largely peaceful crowd on June 1, 2020.
The Seattle Times reports the police tactics, captured on multiple videos that were shared widely and drew public outrage, erupted outside the department’s East Precinct after an officer’s tug of war with a protester over a pink umbrella.
Hirjak, 51, a 27-year veteran who became the department’s first Asian-American assistant chief in 2018, contends his May 26 demotion and other mistreatment have marred his career, “discriminated against me on account of my race and treated me differently from similarly situated white employees.”
An 11-page letter that accompanies the claim, written by Hirjak’s lawyer, Toby Marshall, also reveals the names of several other high-ranking commanders — all of them white — who he says have either received promotions or avoided accountability despite alleged misconduct or missteps during last year’s demonstrations.
A Seattle police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Hirjak’s allegations.