Seattle Chief of Police Carmen Best announced Monday that she would be resigning at the start of September, after the city council voted to trim the budget of the police department and reduce the workforce by up to 100 officers.
According to CBS News, Best sent an email to the department saying her resignation will be effective on Sept. 2 and Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz has been appointed as interim chief.
Best, a military veteran, has been with the department since 1992 and was the city’s first Black police chief. During her time with the department she worked as a patrolwoman, media relations officer, and deputy chief. In July 2018, she was appointed chief of police by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Both Durkan and Best opposed the decision to reduce the police department’s budget.
A series of measures were voted on last week that would reduce the $400 million annual police budget by less than $4 million. Of the 1,400 police officers in the city, up to 100 are expected to be fired through layoffs and attrition. The cuts also saw a reduction in salary for Best and other top level police officials in the city. Only one city council member, Kshama Sawant, voted against the measures, believing they didn’t go far enough in defunding the police.
From CBS News:
“I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times,” Best said in the email. “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. ... I look forward to seeing how this department moves forward through the process of re-envisioning public safety. I relish the work that will be done by all of you.”
In an email to police sent shortly after Best’s message, also obtained by KIRO, Durkan said she accepted Best’s decision “with a very heavy heart.”
“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.
Best and Durkan believed the council should have held off on the measures, feeling they should’ve been discussed as part of the 2021 budget for the city. They noted that layoffs would disproportionately affect new officers who typically come from Black and brown communities and could potentially lead to lawsuits. Durkan has previously proposed a $20 million reduction in the police budget due to decreased revenue from COVID-19 and last month, she drafted a proposal that would reduce the police budget by $75 million over the next year by removing various areas including parking enforcement and the 911 call center away from the police department.
“It is unfortunate Council has refused to engage in a collaborative process to work with the mayor, Chief Best, and community members to develop a budget and policies that respond to community needs while accounting for—not just acknowledging—the significant labor and legal implications involved in transforming the Seattle Police Department,” Durkan said in a statement regarding the vote.