SEATTLE – Seattle’s Chief of Police says she’s resigning, a move announced the same day the agency approved reducing the department by as many as 100 officers through layoffs and exhaustion.
Carmen Best, the city’s first black police chief, said in a letter to the department that her retirement will take effect on September 2, and the mayor has appointed deputy chief Adrian Diaz as interim chief, KING-TV reported on Monday. Council members had approved the cuts on Monday.
“I am confident that the department will get through these difficult times,” Best said in the letter. “You really are the best police department in the country, and trust me when I say, the vast majority of people in Seattle support and appreciate you. … I look forward to seeing how this department progresses through the process of representing “I like the work you will do for all of you.”
In an email to Chief of Police Jenny Durkan said she accepted Best’s decision “with a very heavy heart.”
“I deeply regret that she concluded that the best way to serve the city and help the department was a change in leadership, in the hope that it would change the dynamics of moving forward with the City Council,” Durkan wrote.
Durkan and Best planned a news conference on Tuesday morning.
The mayor chose Best in July 2018 to lead the department. She had served as interim manager.
A military veteran, Best joined the department in 1992 and had worked in a variety of roles, including patrol, media relations, drugs and operations, and deputy chief.
Cuts to the department have been supported by protesters who have marched in the city after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis but strongly opposed by Durkan and Best.
Measures that would cut less than $ 4 million from the department’s annual budget of $ 400 million this year were passed unanimously by the committee last week. On Monday, only Councilor Kshama Sawant voted against the budget package, saying it was not doing enough to confuse the police.
Seattle currently has about 1,400 police officers and the reductions fell well below the 50% cut to the department that many Black Lives Matter protesters are seeking. Several councilors said on Monday that the changes were a starting point in a long process of re-intimidating the police and public security.
The agency also reduced Best’s approximately $ 285,000 annual salary and the salary of other senior police chiefs, although the recent cuts in Best’s salary were significantly more modest than those approved last week. The council’s plan also takes officers from a team that removes homeless camps.
“Although we can not do everything in this summer package to rebalance the summer, we have paved the way for enormous work ahead of us as a council and as a city,” said Councilor Teresa Mosqueda.
Durkan and Best had called on the council to slow down their discussions on police budgets and said that the issue could be taken seriously when the city budget for 2021 is considered. They also said that any layoffs would disproportionately target newer officers, often hired from black and brown communities, and would inevitably lead to lawsuits.
Durkan has proposed cutting about $ 20 million from the police budget this year, largely due to reduced revenue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, the mayor outlined a plan to reduce the police budget by about $ 75 million next year by transferring parking attendants, 911 call centers and other areas from the department.
“It is unfortunate that the Council has refused to participate in a co-operation process to work with the Mayor, Chief Best and members of society to develop a budget and policy that responds to society’s needs while outlining – not just acknowledging – the significant workforce and the legal implications of changing the Seattle Police Department, ”Durkan said in a statement after the vote.