In another about-face from the city, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan on Tuesday announced that Carmen Best will in fact be Seattle's new police chief.
Best, who has been the interim police chief for the city since Kathleen O'Toole's resignation in January, was initially eliminated from the semifinalists late May; thought of as an insider too close to the police department to advance reform efforts, the mayor's hand-picked advisors instead chose three outsider candidates for Durkan to interview.
That caused uproar among police reform activists who had long held relationships with Best and favored her, pointing out that she was the only woman of color to have made it to the semifinalist round. The police union representing SPD's rank and file officers also supported Best; she was the deputy chief under O'Toole, was well-respected, and has been in SPD for 26 years.
But when one of the finalists pulled out his application, the mayor's office announced that Best was back in the running; The Seattle Times reported that officials were laying the groundwork for her to be police chief behind the scenes.
"I have no question that Chief Carmen Best is the person to lead the police department to the next level in the city of Seattle," Durkan said at a press conference Tuesday morning. "She has earned this through hard work, dedication, and service. She will work her heart out, and I believe she will make our city proud."
Durkan dodged questions about the reversal on Tuesday and said that while the other two candidates were impressive, she believed having someone in the role who was familiar with the consent decree was important for the city not to slip on its police reform progress.
Seattle in 2012 was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice over excessive use of force and bias, which led to a settlement that created the consent decree. Last year, a federal judge concluded that the city was compliant with court-ordered reforms, bringing the city into its next phase—showing that it remains compliant with the consent decree for two years.
Best during the press conference said she was dedicated to furthering police reform efforts. She also spoke on Seattle's growth that brings officers to face "the complicated intersection of public safety and public health," and called for more police officers to reflect that growth.
"We know that the work is not done, not in Seattle and not across our country," Best said on reform. "I'm committed to safety, equity, unity, and diversity of our city and fair and just treatment for everyone."
Updated 5:24pm to correct that Carmen Best was deputy chief under O'Toole.