By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The news release about the announcement of the top three finalists for the Seattle police chief job stated that it would happen on a Friday afternoon before the three-day Memorial Day weekend.
That meant three days of government offices being closed, and no one to take calls from the media.
It was clear to me then that Carmen Best would not be one of the names.
Best is a 26-year veteran and widely respected in the Asian community.
Best who’s been interim police chief since the last chief (Kathleen O’Toole) resigned.
Best who promised us that “Justice for Donnie (Chin) is justice for the whole community.”
Best who has met our community face-to-face and kept us apprised of the investigation since Chin’s murder in 2015.
Oh, and she happens to be a woman. And a person of color.
When the City announced its three finalists on May 25, all of whom are from out-of-state, search committee co-chair Tim Burgess said he believed the Seattle Police Department (SPD) needed an outsider chief to address ongoing structural issues.
It was “less a decision about Carmen Best and more a decision about what the institution needs going forward,” Burgess said.
Is Best to blame for the “ongoing structural issues?”
While she’s been with the SPD for 26 years, she’s been in charge since only December. We haven’t given her enough time to turn things around.
Best had tremendous support both outside and inside the department.
Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said in a letter that Best was the second-highest ranking member of the SPD as the department reached compliance with reforms set forth by the Department of Justice and that she provided the leadership needed to change the culture.
“For former Mayor Burgess to downplay this achievement is an insult to each and every member of the department who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time,” Stuckey wrote.
Mayor Jenny Durkan will interview each candidate in the coming weeks, and the candidate she nominates will be confirmed by the Seattle City Council.
There is some precedent for the mayor to ignore the recommendations of a search committee.
Norm Rice did it in 1994, when he selected Norm Stamper, despite his committee’s choices.
Durkan, are you listening to what your community wants? Best is the best person for the job.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.