Initially left off the mayor’s list of finalists, Best was put back into consideration after outcry from community groups calling for a “restart” on the process to select the next leader of the Seattle Police Department.
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Community groups and members of Durkan’s Community Police Commission had spoken out on Best’s omission and called on the mayor to restart the selection process to include Best, the first Black woman to lead the department. and a career law enforcement officer who has risen through the ranks at SPD with wide support in communities like the Central District.
The 25-member Police Search Committee included many with “extensive experience in criminal justice reform.” The group “collaborated with a national search firm to attract many qualified applicants from across the country.”
Best was among the five finalists put forth by the full committee but not among the three initially selected through the “Competitive Exam process” to be interviewed by the mayor.
Support for Best was voiced during a community meeting about the search for a new chief in the Central District earlier this year when a speaker from Mothers for Police Accountability said Best has a strong base in the community and continued to listen. Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association, meanwhile, told the story of Best’s work to bring true justice in the William Wingate arrest. Daugaard said that it was Best who heard from the community about the situation surrounding the arrest of the 69-year-old retired veteran, setting the wheels in motion for SPD brass to get involved and exonerate Wingate.
“I am excited to lead the men and women of this great agency,” Best said Tuesday. “It is my commitment to you that I will move the department ahead on continued improvement and innovation.”
I wanted to thank all of you for your support. I will be announced as the next Seattle Police Chief. I am excited to lead the men and women of this great agency. It is my commitment to you that I will move the department ahead on continued improvement and innovation.
— Chief Carmen Best (@carmenbest) July 17, 2018
After three years on the job, Ed Murray-selected Kathleen O’Toole stepped down from her post as Seattle’s police chief as Durkan took office late last year. The mayor credited O’Toole with helping to guide SPD reform following the Justice Department consent decree that came out of an eight-month DOJ investigation of Seattle policing released in winter 2011 that revealed troubling findings about the department’s use of force. SPD’s overhaul included a DOJ-approved use of force policy. Others were less enthusiastic about the previous chief with speakers saying they believe O’Toole had been too disconnected from Black Seattle and had gone back on promises of a more inclusive approach to policing.
Chief Best inherits a department that has seemingly come through some of the biggest challenges following the DOJ intervention but not all is settled. One of the largest issues shadowing O’Toole’s leadership remains in the ongoing battle to hammer out a renewal of the city’s contract with the powerful Seattle Police Officer Guild.