Publisher’s Note: ACAB?! Not so fast

The truth is often more complicated than it appears

By Jonathan Sposato May 1, 2023

Police chief Adrian Diaz with publisher Jonathan Sposato

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

It’s powerful how simple slogans, mottos, and memes capture the zeitgeist of a particular moment. They express a necessary and biting emotion to provoke the establishment and cause us all to think a little, or a lot, about what’s broken. 

But an oddly circular thing can happen. An acute series of tragic instances of police brutality crescendos in nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, where we proclaim “Enough! Things must change!” I was there. I marched.

And in that swirl of emotion the slogan “ACAB,” or “All Cops Are Bastards,” is revived from four decades ago, reappropriated from ‘80s UK punks into a modern context to decry police brutality. Those moments, and the complexity of centuries-long racial inequity, persistent economic divide, unequal access to opportunity, and big problems with how law enforcement is a party to systemic racism, are reduced to their most atomic essence to become “All Cops Are Bastards.”

The term ACAB paints every single police officer as complicit in an unjust system. And herein lies the rub. In a world that has become increasingly endemic to sound bites, reductionism, and yes, cancel culture, should your values be described and even governed by simple broad strokes? Or would you choose to live in a more nuanced and real world?

Anyone meeting new Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz is struck by his humility, expansive thinking, eloquence, and kindness. In an exclusive interview with Seattle magazine, he describes exactly what should change in modern policing, starting with the man in the mirror. His radical ideas are fresh. He has clearly listened to the needs of the community he serves. He is centered on inclusion and progressiveness. 

This is not a guy who will stand on your throat, nor tolerate anyone who does. Under his watch, violent crime fell by wide margins in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021. He has engineered de-escalation into police calls, and is rebuilding law enforcement to include traditionally marginalized groups. For more, check out our podcast interview with Chief Diaz at seattlemag.com available on May 20th.  

It’s easy to stay angry. It’s simpler. There are good guys and bad guys. All homeless people are drug addicts. All rich people are crooks. All cops are bad. But thinking this way doesn’t require us to challenge the “why” behind our inertia.

If there’s something we already know about Seattle’s DNA, it’s that it’s capable of incredible change. We’re adaptive, innovative, and tolerant of diverse perspectives.

It’s exciting to have a police chief who reflects those values. 


Look for the full interview with Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz in the May/June print issue of Seattle magazine on store shelves now.

About the Publisher’s Note Column

Publisher's Note is Seattle magazine owner Jonathan Sposato's highly subjective perspective on the issues that confront our community the most.  Jonathan's mission with the publication is to focus our attention on solutions, and to change the conversation in Seattle to an always hopeful, positive, and productive place.


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