Carmen Best, Seattle's Police Chief, Resigns After City Council Cuts Department Funds

Aug 12, 2020
Originally published on August 12, 2020 7:28 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Seattle's police chief is leaving her job. She announced that not long after the city council approved the first of a series of budget cuts to the police department. Here's Casey Martin from member station KUOW in Seattle.

CASEY MARTIN, BYLINE: Chief Carmen Best says it's time to step out of the way as Seattle figures out the future of police spending and takes the council's budget cuts personally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARMEN BEST: How else am I supposed to feel? There's a whole roomful of department heads in here, and not one of them was named - just me. So yeah, I take it personal.

MARTIN: On Monday, the council approved a number of measures that include cuts to police staffing and pay. The need to reduce spending was in part in response to the economic downturn, and this summer has been marked by Black Lives Matter activists demanding at least a 50% cut to the police budget. These reductions don't come close to that. Best says the city council's operating without her input.

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BEST: I really don't want the animus that has been directed toward me to affect the people who work for me. Targeting my command staff and their pay, you know, it just felt very vindictive and very punitive.

MARTIN: Best has worked for the Seattle Police Department for nearly 30 years and is the city's first Black female chief. Her stepping down now in the middle of a national reckoning over systemic racism in law enforcement was a shock to Victoria Beach, who chairs the African American Community Advisory Council in Seattle.

VICTORIA BEACH: I'm just devastated. I think we made progress having a Black chief, and we're going backwards.

MARTIN: Beach worries the Seattle Police Department will lose more Black and brown officers due to Best leaving and the looming cuts. Mayor Jenny Durkan, who urged Best to stay, says the city won't be able to find a permanent replacement chief until the council finishes the budget.

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JENNY DURKAN: Because right now nobody would know what job they're applying for.

MARTIN: Carmen Best's last day as Seattle police chief is September 2.

For NPR News, I'm Casey Martin in Seattle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCUS D'S "MELANCHOLY HOPEFUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.