MYNORTHWEST BLOG

Mayor Durkan: Seattle is a city ‘under duress’

Jul 17, 2018, 3:33 PM | Updated: 3:34 pm

seattle, police, spd...

(file photo)

(file photo)

The mayor’s nomination of Carmen Best for Seattle’s next chief of police was a widely positive event. Save for the questions at the end. Best wasn’t on the original list of finalists, and that fact won’t easily be forgotten.

RELATED: What the 3 police chief finalists said about Seattle

Mayor Jenny Durkan made one comment as she began taking questions that reminded everyone that the chief of police job isn’t all lip-syncing battles and traffic enforcement.

“This city is under a lot of duress right now,” Durkan said. “Seattle is a hard place to live, and listening to community and helping our officers deal with that changing city, I think in my judgment, needed somebody who understands community, understands Seattle, and understands what that growth has done to the job of being a police officer.”

Durkan said she has high hopes for the other two finalists that did not nab the job. She said there is little doubt they will find the right fit in another city. But Best is someone who has already been listening to the community and understands the city, she added. Her comments sum up the problems city government faces every day, including an affordability crisis, opioid epidemic, and all the issues that go along with them.

Seattle under duress

The department itself is dealing with its own challenges. If confirmed by the city council, Best must ensure the department sustains the reforms that were designed to eliminate biased policing and unnecessary use of force, following a series of events that led the city to agreement with the Department of Justice. She will also take over as the city continues to work out a contract renewal with the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

Additionally, Best may — depending on who you ask — have to deal with a notable number of officers leaving. Though the department’s chief operating officer says police officers are not leaving in large numbers, others, including Guild Vice President Rich O’Neill, have said otherwise.

Durkan is optimistic that a contract with the police union will happen. And perhaps the number of officers leaving the department really isn’t as bad as headlines make it seem.

RELATED: Seattle mayor nominates Carmen Best for police chief

If that’s the case, then all Best has to do is ensure the department doesn’t slide back into the problems of the past and, as Durkan put it, handle the next stage of department growth.

Best, Durkan says, is “up to the task.”

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