After months of animosity from the Seattle City Council and mayor, the city’s police chief says she is stepping down. The announcement was made public the same day the City Council approved shrinking the department by as many as 100 officers. The liberal council, which is made up of all Democrats with the exception of one socialist, had also voted to reduce her salary to below that of the previous chief who was a white male.
Carmen Best, the city’s first black police chief, said in a letter to the department published by KING-TV that her retirement will be effective Sept. 2.
Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, has appointed Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz as the interim chief, according to the letter.
Council members had approved the cuts Monday.
In a letter addressed to the Seattle Police Department, Best said, “This was a difficult decision for me, but when it’s time, it’s time.”
Best took a shot at the Black Lives Matter movement by speaking on widespread support for the police saying, “I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times. 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.”
In an email to police, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she accepted Best’s decision “with a very heavy heart.” The comment was at odds with Durkan’s previous statements that attacked Best and the police force.
“I regret deeply that she concluded that the best way to serve the city and help the department was a change in leadership, in the hope that would change the dynamics to move forward with the City Council,” Durkan wrote.
Durkan and Best planned a Tuesday morning news conference.
The mayor picked Best in July of 2018 to lead the department. She had been serving as interim chief.
A military veteran, Best joined the department in 1992 and had worked in a wide variety of roles, including patrol, media relations, narcotics and operations and deputy chief.
Measures that would $4 million of the department’s annual budget this year passed out of committee unanimously last week. On Monday, only council member Kshama Sawant voted against the budget package, saying it does not do enough to defund the police.
The City Council also cut Best’s roughly annual salary and the pay of other top police leaders, although the final cuts to Best’s salary were significantly more modest than those approved last week. The council plan also takes officers off a team that removes homeless camps.
Durkan has proposed cutting about $20 million from the police budget this. Last month, the mayor sketched out a plan to reduce the police budget by about $75 million next year.