Seattle police Chief Carmen Best’s decision to abruptly retire was driven by City Council members who didn’t consult her as they sought to cut the Police Department’s budget this summer, and who showed a lack of respect for the department’s employees, Best said Tuesday.
In a news conference with Mayor Jenny Durkan, who praised her leadership during a turbulent time, Best said she realized she couldn’t bring herself to carry out officer layoffs the council had unanimously voted for Monday. The chief had opposed the move, warning that a rule mandating layoffs by reverse seniority would result in new officers, who are more likely to be officers of color, losing jobs. Council members had asked her to pursue a waiver allowing out-of-order layoffs, arguing cops with sustained misconduct complaints should be let go first.
Flanked by Durkan and Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz, whom Durkan will appoint as interim chief, Best read a thank-you email she had received from a recently hired Black officer whom she described as a “great young man,” the Seattle Times reports.
“He is one of the people that will probably not keep a job here,” the first Black woman to lead Seattle’s police said. “And that, for me, I’m done. I can’t do it.”
She described the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in May after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd as challenging, and criticized the command staff salary reductions as personal, vindictive, punitive and even illegal; leaders of no other Seattle departments were targeted by the council in a similar way, she pointed out.
“This is not about the money and certainly isn’t about the demonstrators” who were blocked on a road near her home by neighbors, Best said. “Be real. I have a thicker skin than that. It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers, the men and women who work so hard day in and day out.”