Even more on the Chief of Police search

There was a lot more heat than light today when it came to the blowback from last Friday’s announcement of the three finalists for Chief of Police.

  • This morning, the Seattle Police Officers Guild put out a press release saying that SPOG members are “extremely disappointed and angered” by some of the comments made during last Friday’s press conference, and went on to praise and endorse Carmen Best. It claimed that there was “an obvious bias against an extremely qualified internal candidate.”
  • David Kroman of Crosscut reports that early this afternoon, the four search committee co-chairs sent an email to the full Search Committee apologizing “that there was misrepresentation of the work.”
  • Late this morning, Mayor Durkan held a press event to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Lander Street Bridge. At the end of the event, she fielded questions on the chief of Police controversy (jump to 21:00 in this video). Here’s what she had to say:
    “Here’s what I know about the next Chief of Police of Seattle. The person will be extraordinary, will lead an extraordinary¬† department, and will be in a very extraordinary city. I have talked with Chief Best both on Friday and last night. We are very focused together on the challenges. She still remains as interim Chief. We have a number of things that we have to do together to move this city forward. She has told me, and we had discussion with it, obviously she’s disappointed, but she says she is moving on and she is focused on how we work together as a city to do the things she’s going to be doing as chief, and I will be doing with her, and then she is going to do everything she can to support the new Chief of Police, get on board, and she has agreed I have agreed that it would be good for her to stay on board, so her plan is to stay on with the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department to move forward. I have every confidence in Chief Best moving forward. I chose her as my interim Chief. I have asked her to stay in that role, and she has done that, and our focus is moving forward. The process, I believe, was a good and healthy process, and with that I’ll have no more comments until I’m able to interview the people who have been selected by the committee. I have reviewed all of the materials, I have talked to the co-chairs, I have talked to the other people involved in the process. I think we had a strong, good process. I completely understand people are disappointed for various reasons that perhaps their candidate didn’t make it through. I love Carmen Best. But I also love the fact that she is a team player, has said to me her focus is moving forward, I am going to respect that and she and I are going to move forward together for the City of Seattle and everything positive we need to do. As Chief of Police we’ve got a lot we have to do in the next six months. You know we have micro-strategies for every neighborhood of Seattle. We have to decide how to make sure that we can reduce the number of youth violence in parts of Seattle, which have been way too much. We have to make sure that we have good and robust policing in and around all of our neighborhoods so that people feel not only that they are safe, but that they feel safe. So there’s a range of things that we’re working on with the Seattle Police Department. I look forward to working with Chief Best, but in terms of the process, the process will move forward, I look forward to meeting the three candidates, we will go to each of the cities where they are from to do very in-depth site visits, and in the meantime we are going to continue to govern here in the City of Seattle and Chief Best will be the Chief of Police.”
  • There was a rally in City Hall just preceding the City Council meeting, and several of the rally participants spoke to the Council during the public comment session. Their criticisms included:
    – if there wasn’t a genuine opportunity for an insider candidate, that should have been communicated up-front;
    – the search committee didn’t represent the people most impacted by overpolicing and biased policing in Seattle;
    – the search committee’s public meetings weren’t advertised well, and the survey it ran was online-only and thus inaccessible to many of the people it most wanted to reach;
    – a “small number of insiders” subverted the process;
    – much praise for Carmen Best;
    – however, “just appointing the woman of color” doesn’t solve the systemic problem that led to this outcome.

At the end of the day, little changed: some people are still angry, Carmen Best is still no longer a candidate, and the Mayor is moving forward with the selection process as-is. Durkan said today that her office will be making “in-depth site visits” for each of the three candidates, and she will be interviewing all three of them before making a final decision on whom to nominate.