By Chris B. Bennett, Publisher/Editor
The world can now see what many of us have known all along; that the city of Seattle’s fairy-tale legend of being the beacon of diversity is a farce.
The latest and most blaring example of this is the treatment of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best by the Seattle City Council. Best, the first permanent African American police chief in the 150-plus year history of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), was not on the list of finalists forwarded to the City Council from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office for the position after she served as interim Chief following the departure of former Chief Kathleen O’Toole. Best, who is highly qualified for the position, was heavily involved in bringing the SPD into compliance with the consent decree entered into by the City of Seattle with the United States Justice Department as a result of the tragic history of police misconduct/brutality and deaths of citizens, primarily African Americans, at the hands of Seattle Police officers.
It’s no secret that many of Seattle’s elected leadership, and their political supporters, were not fans of Chief Best, but were subject to public pressure to not only make Best a finalist, but to appoint her as chief based on her qualifications, knowledge of the city, and popularity based on her performance over the 25-plus years of her career (at the time) with the department. While a few may claim that some members of the current City Council were not part of the selection process for Best at the time, I would argue that they are a continuum of the disparate treatment towards Best by most, if not all, political decision makers in City Hall at one time or another. Especially since the current members of the council did not provide her with a seat at the table or have input into their recent proposed budget cuts to “comply with community requests to defund the police.”
I’m sure the family of George Floyd will be up in arms when they find out that instead of policy makers in Seattle seeking justice and accountability in the wake of Floyd’s death, the Seattle City Council used his death as a cowardice opportunity to get rid of an African American police chief who was working in the trenches to do the right thing.
Yes, there may be some people who don’t agree with Chief Best, and that is why we live in a democracy. But we must acknowledge that it makes no sense for her to be the first victim of calls for reform and defunding as a result of an incident that resulted in the death of a Black man at the hands of police that didn’t even occur in the State of Washington, let alone the City of Seattle.
During the recent protests, the City Council handcuffed Best and the officers working on the frontlines by not allowing them to use teargas to disperse the crowds, but at the same time throwing bricks (not rocks) at SPD’s handling of the protests because they were “escalating” and “not de-escalating” the situations that occurred. Well, common sense tells us that if you limit the police to using weapons that can only be used at close range (i.e. peppery spray, bang grenades, shields, bikes and batons) that the chances for the escalation of events are going to be very high.
We must question the motives behind the calculated moves by the City Council to get rid of Best, including potentially reducing her salary by 40-60 percent. Could it be that they had some animosity towards Best because she was a Black woman making more money than they were as councilmembers? Could it be that they had a Black woman who was smarter, more professional and political savvy than they were who they could not “puppet” around? Could it be that this Black woman would not afford members of the City Council special favors from the police that were not afforded to the average citizen and were outside the lines of protocols in place for sitting councilmembers? Or perhaps, the councilmembers were influenced by the city’s good ole’ boys’ network who wanted to return to the renegade ways of the wild, wild west and Best was in the way of their quest to “Make Seattle Great Again”?
Regardless of the reason for this cowardly act orchestrated against Chief Best, the current members of the Seattle City Council should forever be known as Black career killers (BCKs) and linked in blood to the systemic racism that is obviously still present in the Emerald City. The next time you see their names on the ballot you should remember that they came after Chief Best, just like midnight marauders, in the name of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter to justify their “strategic steps towards reform.”
If the current Chief of Police had a skin hue that was much lighter than yours or mine, do you think we’d be sitting here talking about cutting the chief’s salary, defunding the police at a rate of 50 percent, or calling into question the decision-making ability of the chief for decisions that were outside of his/her control?
We will see how well the members of the City Council sleep when they try to bring Wyatt Earp back to control the streets.
How can you claim to be about progress and come to our community saying and singing “Black Lives Matter,” when you just tried to defame our first and only? You thought we didn’t recognize that you were smiling in her face, while all the time plotting for someone else to take her place? Like an old negro spiritual we know that song like the back of our hands.
With the pending departure of Chief Best, the flag of diversity that Seattle tries to hoist so high above the rest of humanity is tattered with bullet holes and gashes from the unjust onslaught of hypocrisy levied against Chief Best by the City Council on what shall forever be known as “Bloody Monday” here in Seattle.
Chief Best served us well, and although her head may be bloodied it is definitely unbowed!
Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!