Police Reform

Carmen Best Is Back in the Running for Seattle Police Chief

Best in a tweet said she was "thrilled" to be a finalist for the permanent police chief role.

By Hayat Norimine July 9, 2018

Carmen Best, left, stands by Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole as she announces her resignation in December 2017. 

Interim police chief Carmen Best is back in the running once again to be the permanent police chief, mayor Jenny Durkan announced Saturday. 

The city's assessors in the police chief search chose Best to return to the shortlisted group of finalists after former Pittsburgh police chief Cameron McLay withdrew his application, according to a statement from the mayor's office. The Seattle Times reported that Best will now likely be the next chief. 

The announcement in May that Best—the only insider candidate from the Seattle Police Department and the only woman of color who was a semifinalist—was eliminated from the search brought backlash from members of the search committee and Community Police Commission who supported her. 

The 25-member search committee picked five, which included Best. A small group of handpicked advisors to the mayor narrowed the semifinalists down to three; and following city press releases framed the decision as one made by the committee as a whole. That brought tension between the city and police reform activists who had long been working with officials and said their voices were left out of the process; Best was also a favorite in the police union representing officers.

McLay was the only finalist who had experience as a police chief; according to The Seattle Times reporting, that made him a frontrunner, but that the prospect of clashing with a union again made McLay hesitant in taking the role. Durkan's press release indicated that he would help Seattle on reform efforts in another role.

That left an opening for Best. Originally Tim Burgess, former council member and an advisor, said they believed an outsider would be more effective at continuing police reforms and that Best's insider knowledge at SPD had worked against her. 

Best now faces Eddie Frizell, inspector at the Minneapolis Police Department, and Ely Reyes, Austin Police Department's assistant chief, as competitors in the final round of interviews with Durkan. 

"Our next chief must be committed to public safety while continuing to build an accountable, diverse police department focused on meaningful and lasting reforms," Durkan said in a statement. 

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