Mayor sticks with Carmen Best as Seattle Police Chief

Interim Seattle Chief of Police Carmen Best can drop the qualifier from her title — she’s won the job. Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office announced the selection Tuesday morning.

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.”

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.

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12 thoughts on “Mayor sticks with Carmen Best as Seattle Police Chief

  1. Mixed feelings here. There is an argument to be made that Carmen Best was the 5th best choice and she was chosen because of political pressure. Also, there is an argument to be made for fresh blood from outside with new ideas. On the other side I think she will do well as Chief, and there is something to be said for continuity.

    Things like this makes me glad I’m not the Mayor.

    • Things like this makes me glad I’m not a citizen of Seattle. Oh wait, I am. So was it the activist community who pushed for this that made it happen or was the reasoning behind excluding her to begin with flawed? Enquiring minds want to know. Either way it raises some questions on how choices are made in our city.

  2. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If she was the best candidate why was she omitted from the 3 finalists to begin with? If she’s not the best candidate it means the mayor let activist groups bully their way into getting Durkan to bow to their wishes. Seattle (and the country in general) is sick of the squeakiest wheel gets oiled approach to liberalism that gives the activist community more clout that 99% of the the non-activist population. Maybe she was a great choice but the way it was decided seems unethical and shows a lack of integrity in the process.

    • If you think the activist community has more clout than 99% of the non-activist population, then the head tax wouldn’t have been repealed. So change “activist community” to corporate behemoths. Also, “squeakiest wheel gets oiled approach” is a pejorative way of saying participatory democracy. Speaking out is important and what a good society should be based on. I agree her initial omission from the 3 finalists was questionable and unclear. But for me it doesn’t tarnish her being selected now as it’s a reflection on that process, not on her. I would like to know how racism and sexism factored into things as well, though certainly the original optics on that were clear. It wasn’t a mistake for her to have been named interim Police Chief either. That’s not something just randomly handed out. She will have to continue to prove herself. All that said, I am not commenting with my general opinions regarding the police force. This is not an endorsement of an institution or individual beyond saying what I said.

    • OMG, yes, these squeekie activists are overrunning our local and national political systems! So sad to see that monied interests are at such a disadvantage these days : ( Durkan’s big money campaign never stood a chance against Mayor Oliver. If only these activists had more money so that they didn’t have to yell to have their voices heard.

  3. My theory about how this happens:

    1. Do the bidding of Lord Burgess

    2. Discover that Lord Burgess has no constituency in Seattle anymore as everyone has seen through his phoniness

    3. Reverse decision made in (1)

  4. I’m glad to see that Chief Best is the choice. Usually they pick a national candidate who will swoop in for 2 years and leave for the next resume building job, we picked someone homegrown who has the support of the community AND the police union.

    I’m not sure why they were dead set against hiring internally at the outset.

    I agree that sometimes the city council and mayor are overly deferential to activists, but in this case, they made the right decision, imo.

  5. I’m sure Best is great and will do well.


    So whether it is the head tax or a hiring decision, Mayor Durkan won’t hesitate to cave to political pressure the second she’s criticized for a decision?