On Tuesday, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced that she will be retiring from the Seattle Police Department (SPD), effective Sept. 2.
Best, who served in various capacities over the course of her 28 year career, says that she made the final decision after the Seattle City Council approved cuts to SPD’s budget, which included the elimination of about 100 officers, cuts to specialized units like SWAT, school resource officers and homeland security, and cuts to the salaries of Chief Best and members of her command staff.
“This has been really the job of a lifetime,” said Best at a press conference announcing her retirement on Tuesday. “This was a very difficult decision, but when you know it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
The news of Chief Best’s resignation was not well received by many in the community, as numerous individuals and organizations lashed out at the members of the Seattle City Council for their actions that many believe led to Best’s resignation.
Black Lives Matter Seattle King County (BLMSKC) says that Best’s retirement is a great loss to the community.
“Today’s news of the retirement of Chief Carmen Best is a loss,” said BLMSCK in a statement about Best’s retirement, “It does nothing to further our fight for authentic police accountability and the safety of Black lives, that the first Black woman to hold the position of Chief of Police of the Seattle Police Department has been forced out of her job by the Seattle City Council.”
“We demand the Seattle City Council stop prioritizing performative action that solely suggests the appearance of change,” the statement continued. “We demand transparency and accountability for the series of actions and inactions that led to Chief Best’s resignation. And we demand a successor that serves Black Lives.”
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce also believes that the council’s actions with regards to Best was not in the best interest of the city.
“The Seattle City Council chose divisive rhetoric over responsible governance and it cost our city a respected leader,” said Alicia Teel, a spokesperson for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Instead of taking the opportunity to constructively advance meaningful reform with Chief Carmen Best, the first Black woman to lead the Seattle Police Department, Council members doubled down on misleading promises and petty, performative actions.”
“It’s time for the Council to refocus their energy on solving the problems we face today, instead of generating new ones,” added Teel.
Chief Best has served with the Seattle Police Department for nearly 30 years. Most recently, she served as Deputy Chief, overseeing the Patrol Operations, Investigations, and Special Operations Bureaus, as well as the Community Outreach section.
Best made great strides in changing the culture and performance of the Seattle Police Department. Under her leadership the department completed the requirements of the sustainment period of the federal consent decree. She implemented the Collaborative Policing Bureau and oversaw the relaunch of the City’s Community Service Officers. She regularly met with community members and worked to advance a customer service approach to policing. She led the department toward a dramatic reduction in use of force against people in crisis as well as a decreased major crime rate in 2019. In addition, she fulfilled a mandate from both the Mayor and Council to hire more diverse officers and in 2019, the department hired its most diverse class in recent memory at 39 percent people of color. And, to ensure officers were at their best and committed to serving the community for years to come, she launched the department’s first wellness unit.
“For almost 30 years, Chief Carmen Best has worked to serve and protect the people of Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “She rose through the ranks during a time when doing so was unprecedented and extraordinary for a woman – particularly a Black woman.
“She defied institutional barriers and always sought to lift others up along the way,” continued Durkan. “Over the course of her career on the force, she established herself as a national leader in community-based policing and I believed she was the person to help lead our City forward to truly reimagine policing. While I understand the Chief’s reasons for retiring, I also accept her decision with a heavy heart. I believe she has been the leader Seattle and SPD needs and her retirement will be a significant loss for me and the city.”
Best was emotional, but upbeat when she announced her decision to retire, and made it a point to let the people of Seattle know how truly grateful she was to serve as their chief of police.
“After nearly three decades serving the people of Seattle, it was an honor to do so as Chief,” said Best. “I truly love the Seattle Police Department and the people who choose to serve their community as members of a national leader in modern, community-based policing. I have such a deep connection to this city and to so many people who call it home. I want to thank them for their support as well.”
Durkan has named Adrian Diaz to serve as Interim Chief of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), effective September 3, 2020.