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Officers guild VP comments on latest twist in police chief search

Interim Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. (File, Associated Press)

Seattle’s interim police chief has as much of a chance to get the job as the other two finalists, despite originally being passed over for another candidate, according to the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

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Rich O’Neill tells 770 KTTH’s Jason Rantz it was “very perplexing” that Carmen Best was not one of the top three finalists until Cameron McLay withdrew “following conversations on police reform.”

“We [the guild] are very happy that the mayor placed her in the top three and she’s in full consideration,” he said.

O’Neill says there’s no reason to believe that Best — an African-American woman who worked her way up through the department to become deputy chief under Kathleen O’Toole — replaced McLay in the top three just to shut down criticism from the public and department. O’Neill, who has seen the city go through the selection process multiple times, points out the mayor can select whoever she wishes. The 25-member search committee does not make the final recommendation, he says.

“I don’t think anyone can match Chief Best for being in tune with the community and also in tune with the rank and file,” he added.

O’Neill says Best should be respected for how far she’s come.

“Let’s be honest,” he said, “when she joined it wasn’t easy for a woman, especially a woman of color, to make it up through the ranks…”

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Best and the guild haven’t always agreed, O’Neill says. However, he says she is thoughtful and has made some “tough calls” as interim chief.

Best joined Eddie Frizell, an inspector with the Minneapolis Police Department, and Ely Reyes, assistant chief of the Austin Police Department, as a finalist for the position. The three candidates will do a series of community meetings and interviews with Mayor Durkan. The final appointment is expected in July, according to committee co-chair Tim Burgess.

“The police chief is the most important decision the mayor will ever make,” O’Neill told Rantz. “The mayor wants to get it right. I know she does. There’s nothing wrong with listening to the department and community. At the end of the day, she has to be comfortable with the person she selects.”

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