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Three candidates considered for next Seattle police chief

Former Seattle council member and mayor Tim Burgess, along with Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, announce three finalist for the next Seattle police chief, May 25, 2018. (Seattle Channel)

Seattle has announced three finalists that it is considering for its next chief of police.

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“The selection of the next chief of police represents a major milestone in advancing the commitment to ongoing police reform,” said Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez at a Friday press conference.

“The person serving as chief will be crucial to the effort making continual and ongoing reforms and cultural changes in our police department, building community trust and making us all safer …” she said. “Our search committee was focused on finding a chief committed to lasting reform, an understanding of police culture and policing, a commitment to procedural justice, and an articulated vision on how accountability and community coexist.”

Seattle police chief candidates

Finalists include: Eddie Frizell, inspector with the Minneapolis Police Department, serving for 25 years, also a colonel with the National Guard; Cameron McLay, former Pittsburgh police chief, also spent 29 years with the Madison Police Department in Wisconsin.; and Ely Reyes, assistant police chief for the Austin Police Department serving for 22 years, also served with US Army and is a recipient of the Purple Heart.

The police chief candidates were chosen by a 25-member search committee, which included former Councilmember Tim Burgess — also a former Seattle police officer. Mayor Jenny Durkan will conduct interviews with each candidate and make a selection. That appointment is expected by late June or July, according to Burgess.

Seeking an outsider

Interim Police Chief Carmen Best. (KIRO 7)

After Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole stepped down in early 2018, Carmen Best stepped in as interim chief. Best was among the candidates considered for the job, but she did not make the final cut. Burgess said this is largely because the committee felt an outsider would work well to enact change in the department.

“It was less a decision about Carmen Best and more a decision about what the organization, the institution of the police department needs today, going forward,” Burgess said, noting that Best is welcome to remain with SPD.

“In many ways, at least for me, the needs of the institution worked against her, in where she is at in this point in her career …” he said. “At the end of the day I think we focused on who we thought had the leadership capabilities and could change the culture of the police department. And we concluded that someone from outside the police department could best do that.”

Following the announcement, Interim Chief Best tweeted that she was honored to have served as police chief and thanked the mayor for the opportunity.

Correction: In a previous version of this report, Cameron McLay was described as a former police chief of the Madison Police Department. He retired from the department as a captain.

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