On Tuesday, community leaders gathered inside Seattle City Hall to protest interim Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best not being on the final list of candidates to be considered for Seattle next police chief. Best, an African American woman and 25-year veteran with SPD, served as an assistant chief under former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who resigned from the position last December.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office released the names of the final three candidates selected by the City’s Police Chief Search Committee Friday afternoon. The finalist include: Cameron S. McLay, former Chief of Police for the City of Pittsburgh; Ely Reyes, Assistant Chief with the Austin Police Department; and Eddie Frizell, an Inspector with the Minneapolis Police Department.
The group, led by Harriett Walden, founder of Mother For Police Accountability, community activist Eddie Rye, Jr. and others, called on Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to repeal the decision made by the search committee to not include Best among the final candidates for the position, even though she is already performing the duties as interim chief.
Walden believes that the process was not fair and that the community has a right to be upset about the decision.
“We are here because it was a flawed process and we are mad and it’s ok to be mad,” said Walden. “It’s ok to be hot and right now we are H.O.T.”
Members of the group questioned how the City’s first female and openly gay Mayor of Seattle could overlook “the most qualified candidate” as well as a woman of color for the position.
“We are concerned because Captain Best has really done a good job of working cooperatively with the community on issues and this is critical on moving forward and continuing to be in compliance with DOJ oversight,” said Pat Murakami, president of South Seattle Crime Prevention Council. “We would like her to be in this final four and seriously considered for this position.”
Dr. Andrea Rye, mother of nationally known CNN and fiery commentator Angela Rye, spoke about the process as from the perspective of a former human resource director and the process that that ultimately excluded Best from consideration.
“Looking at the process, I am not an insider and I haven’t had the chance to look it from the inside, but I can tell you what a flaw looks like, not only is this a flaw, but a fatal flaw,” said Rye, the former Director of Human Resources at Evergreen Community College. “This process has screened out the most qualified candidate, who is an African American woman, so there are issues that need to be addressed right away to solve the problem that has been created by eliminating who we need in the position.”
In a statement announcing the final three candidates, Durkan states, “I’m incredibly grateful for the work that Interim Chief Carmen Best has done and will continue to do as part of the Seattle Police Department. I have known Chief Best for years and her work has been invaluable to me as Mayor – she has been a strong leader as Interim Chief.”
Best also issued a statement after the names of the final three candidates were announced thanking Durkan for selecting her as interim chief.
“There is no greater honor than to have served as the Chief of the Seattle Police Department, in a city and department that I love. I want to thank the Mayor for the opportunity and have agreed to her request that I continue as Interim Chief until a new Chief is confirmed,” said Best in the statement.
“I wish the candidates the best – each of them should know how fortunate they will be to lead officers who have a commitment to public safety and reform. We will continue to work to meet our community’s expectations, while leading the way as one of the best departments in the country, with Service, Pride and Dedication,” The statement concluded.
According to protestors, the decision further solidifies the notion that equality and equity seem elusive for the African American community as they work diligently to gain some sense of fairness as it relates to how African Americans are treated in the city.