A bombshell in the Seattle political scene—Police Chief Carmen Best has announced her retirement.
“The [Seattle City] Council gave us $1.6 million to hire the best, brightest, and most diverse. Now they want me to lay off 100 of those officers. I can’t do that,” Best said during a Aug. 11 news conference.
Best’s announcement comes amidst efforts to cut spending on police—a key demand of anti-racism demonstrators across the nation—discussions she said that happened without her input.
Seattle’s first Black police chief and only the second woman to hold the position, who enjoyed deep support in its minority communities, announced her retirement just hours after the City Council voted to cut her annual $285,000 salary by $10,000, as well as the salaries of her command staff. Councilmember Alex Pedersen released a statement saying that he, Andrew Lewis, and Debora Juarez did NOT vote for Best’s salary cut.
The rest of the cuts were approved in a 7-1 vote, with Councilmember Kshama Sawant as the only dissenting vote. The vote also trims as many as 100 officers from a force of 1,400 through layoffs and attrition.
Best said she was OK with her pay cut, but not with having to lay off young officers, many of them minorities.
“It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers.” Best also said she herself felt disrespected and humiliated.
Many of her supporters—even those who considered the department’s response to the recent protests heavy-handed—saw her retirement as unfortunate.
“All these organizations that have been pushing for police reform, we all believe Chief Best is a good chief,” said Linh Thai, managing director of the Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute. “We want her at the helm.”
Don’t be fooled by Sawant’s dissenting vote. She took that stance only because the cuts were not drastic enough to her liking. The seven other council members were extremely short-sighted and bowed to political pressure. Two of them—Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González— have terms that end in 2021. Why haven’t they been supportive of the mayor?
Could it be they are gunning for her job or a higher political office? Where’s the vision and leadership that Seattle sorely needs?
While some may think it was petulant of Best to step down—she’s not getting her way, therefore she’s retiring—who can blame her? How would you like to be told to do a difficult, almost impossible job, with your hands tied behind your back?
This is a major blow for the City of Seattle and probably not what Black Lives Matter supporters wanted.
Best is incredibly smart, well-liked, respected among the rank and file, and a friend to the local Asian American community, a class act.
In her statement to the police force, Best said, “You truly are the best police department in the country, and please trust me when I say, the vast majority of people in Seattle support you and appreciate you.”
We appreciate you, Carmen. Thank you for your support, grace, and integrity.