Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced her resignation on Tuesday, one day after the City Council cut nearly $4 million from the police department’s budget.
“I’m sad to leave in some ways, but when it’s time it’s time,” Best said at a press conference with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat.
Asked what motivated her to step down, Best referenced the City Council’s push to replace many police functions with a civilian-led department and dramatically slash the number of sworn officers.
“I really think that we needed to have a plan moving forward. It was highly disappointing not to see that,” Best said.
“It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers,” she added later.
Seattle has struggled with a rise in anti-police sentiment in recent months. Demonstrators occupied a portion of the city for weeks starting in early June, an occupation tolerated by city officials until several shootings took place, leaving two black men dead. Clashes between officers and demonstrators have since taken place, including a riot on July 26 that left 59 officers injured. Explosives were discovered in a van used to equip rioters with weapons.
Best said the decision did not stem from her pay being cut or demonstrators showing up at one of her residences but called the targeting of high-level staff salaries’ “vindictive.”
Best, in her mid-50s, started with the Seattle Police Department in 1992 and moved her way up the ranks. She became interim chief of police in 2018 before being appointed permanent chief by Durkan later that year.
Best was Seattle’s first black female chief of police.
Durkan praised the retiring police chief, calling her “the right person to help reimagine policing in this city.”
“Chief Best, I think, invented the phrase ‘continuous improvement,'” she added.
Adrian Diaz, an assistant chief, will become interim chief next month.
The search for the police chief won’t begin until next year, the mayor said, because she’s not sure what job she’d be hiring for, another reference to the City Council.
“What job would they be applying for?” she asked.
Councilmembers on Monday approved cuts of about 1 percent to the police department’s budget but have vowed to explore deeper cuts for next year’s budget.
The approved cuts will slash the number of officers by up to 100 from the approximately 1,400-strong force.
Members eliminated an entire team, which was focused on response to homeless issues, and reduced the number of officers of some specialized units.
Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Andrew Lewis, both Democrats, emphasized in statements released on Tuesday that they voted against the budget amendment that cut Best’s pay
“I am deeply saddened by the resignation of our Police Chief Carmen Best,” Pedersen said, calling Best one of the best leaders “to help lead the hard negotiations needed to fix the police contract—today’s expensive and unreasonable police contract is among the biggest impediments to revamping and boosting public safety in all communities.”
Lewis said he was grateful for the access and resources Best granted the council during budget deliberations.
“Cutting the salary of the first black woman to serve as chief to a level below her white predecessor does not sit well with me either,” he said. “It is clear from the public statements of Chief Best that these pay cuts to her and her team weighed heavily in her decision to leave public service, and it is a significant and sad loss.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.