Carmen Best, the first Black police chief in Seattle’s history, left her post Wednesday, saying on her way out that the city council’s police budget cuts had put her in a “position destined to fail,” according to a report.
Best, 55, announced her resignation Aug 10, after the council made good on its promise to approve sweeping proposals that would slash the police department budget by $4 million and cut as many as 100 officers from the force.
“I believe 100% that they were putting me in a position destined to fail. Cutting a police department that already had low staffing numbers, that was already struggling to keep up with the demand,” Best told NPR on Wednesday. “How are we going to provide for adequate public safety in that environment?”
Succeeding Best as interim chief is Adrian Diaz, who said he planned to shift 100 officers from “specialty units” to standard patrol units to help improve the department’s 911 response time, Seattle’s KOMO-TV reported.
Best left her position amid a tumultuous last few months on the job, highlighted by protests against systemic racism and police violence, following the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. Protesters would take a six-block autonomous zone in the heart of the city’s downtown for weeks — free of law enforcement presence — after police vacated a nearby precinct building.
In late July, Best lashed out against rioters after an explosive device left an eight-inch hole in a wall of a city police precinct building.
“What we saw today was not peaceful,” Best said at the time, according to the Seattle Times. “The rioters had no regard for the public’s safety, for officers’ safety or for the businesses and property that they destroyed.”
Last month, Best said her decision to leave was “not about the money, and it certainly isn’t about the demonstrators.”
“I mean, be real, I have a lot thicker skin than that,” she added. “It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers, the men, and women who work so hard, day in and day out.”
Backers of the “Defund the police” movement across the U.S. have sought to reduce or even eliminate funding for the nation’s police departments, pointing to what they say is a history of police mistreatment of African-Americans and other minority groups.
Seattle Mayor Durkan and Best had urged the council to slow down its discussions about police budgets, saying the issue could be taken up in earnest when the 2021 city budget is considered.
On her last day, Best remarked how she had mixed feelings about leaving the department amid nationwide protests, as well as an ongoing debate on police tactics.
“We’re in the middle of a social reckoning, you know, racial reckoning in the country … and we have to acknowledge that policing has a history that has in many ways been conducive to the racism that we’re experiencing,” she told NPR. “But we also have to acknowledge that policing is working really hard to change that narrative. And we need to work with the public to figure out how we’re going to do that.”
Best detailed her last day in a series of Twitter posts, starting off with a socially distanced interview, where she bid farewell to members of the community and the “hard-working men and women” with whom she worked over the years.
Best, who had been Seattle’s police chief since August 2018, served with the Seattle PD for nearly three decades and held almost every position within the department.
“I am honored. I am blessed,” she said Wednesday.
Members of her original security detail then took her to what she described as a “swanky breakfast.” She posted photos of the meal and remarked how she felt “fortunate to have had such dedicated public servant‘s by my side.”
Later, members of law enforcement and residents lined up on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle near police headquarters to wave goodbye.
“So grateful for the @SeattlePD sworn and civilian who lined 5th Ave today to say goodbye — on my last day with the Dept,” she wrote. “Thank you for 28 wonderful years!”
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche and Dom Calicchio contributed to this report