After initially being snubbed, Carmen Best, a police veteran serving as interim chief was selected as the next leader of the embattled Seattle Police Department during a press conference on Tuesday.
Best stepped what was at first a temporary leadership role after former chief Kathleen O’Toole resigned late last year, the Seattle Times reported. The move allowed Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan time to pick someone from the department’s more than 1,400 officers. With an ongoing national search taking months to find candidates, Best began to steer the long-troubled department out of a fire that included court-ordered police reforms and a lack of community trust made worse by the controversial police shooting death of a mentally ill Black mother last June.
Ultimately, Best apparently made a better impression on the mayor than two other candidates who came from outside of Seattle. Now, she has been chosen as the official chief pending confirmation by the city council.
“I wanted to thank all of you for your support,” Best, a wife and mother of two, tweeted. ” … I am excited to lead the men and women of this great agency. It is my commitment to you that I will move the department ahead on continued improvement and innovation.”
With 26 years at the department, Best had actually been initially passed over as a finalist for the job. A search committee submitted five semifinalists to Seattle’s mayoral board, which chose three candidates for Durkan to consider. But the list — former Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay; Austin, Texas Assistant Police Chief Ely Reyes; and Minneapolis Precinct Inspector Eddie Frizell — was missing Best.
The decision to exclude her was met with major criticism from community leaders and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild. Best’s name was put back in the running earlier this month, but why she was initially excluded after proving she could handle the job was a question pressed by reporters Tuesday but went unanswered.
Best has been in several big department positions after being hired in 1992: stints in patrol, school safety, media relations and community outreach. She was a former patrol supervisor and operations lieutenant in addition to also holdiung positions in the narcotics, robbery, gangs and fugitives units. She also was a South Precinct commander and assistant chief of criminal investigations before O’Toole named her as a deputy chief, according to her Seattle police bio.
The city council could vote on Best’s confirmation as early as Sept. 4.