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Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best formally announces decision to retire

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best formally announced her decision to retire Tuesday morning, in a press conference alongside Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Multiple sources confirmed to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show Monday night that Chief Best planned to announce her retirement. An internal memo from Best to SPD staff confirming her decision, effective Sept. 2, was released shortly after those reports surfaced.

“I can honestly say I have no regrets,” Best said during Tuesday’s press conference. “There are things I would change, but being a Seattle police officer and the opportunity to be a police chief was the dream of a lifetime. I will continue to do all I can over the next three weeks to set this department up for a smooth transition. I will always love being a SPD officer. To the men and women of the SPD, you will always have my respect. You will always be in my heart. You are without a doubt the best police department in the country.”

This came in the wake of an historic vote on Monday from city council, enacting sweeping cuts to the city’s police department budget.

“My heart is heavy to lose her, and I will freely admit, I wish she was staying,” Durkan said Tuesday, revealing Best had informed her of over the weekend of her decision to retire.

“Carmen Best was the right person to help reimagining policing in this city,” she continued. “Chief Best, her leadership, and many of her officers were truly engaged in deep conversation with community to make better choices for the department and the city, and what resources we needed besides police.”

Durkan named Adrian Diaz as interim chief once Best’s retirement takes effect in September. She also stated that she has “no plans to begin a search” for a new permanent police chief in 2020, and that she would prefer to wait until reforms to the department take shape long-term.

Councilmembers approved amendments in their plan for budget cuts in committee last week. The committee voted to move the bulk of its proposal forward during its 10 a.m. session, before giving its final approval Monday evening by a 7-1 margin. The proposal includes cuts to mounted patrol officers, school resource officers, community outreach, the public affairs unit, Harbor Patrol, SWAT, and more. It also eliminates up to 100 sworn officer positions across various teams via layoffs and attrition (including 32 patrol officers), beginning in November 2020.

Chief Best has been an outspoken critic of the council’s plans to cut SPD’s budget, citing concerns over public safety in a scenario where the department is forced to lose personnel. She has served as SPD’s police chief since 2018, after moving through the ranks as an officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and deputy chief. She is the first Black woman to ever serve as Seattle’s chief of police.

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