Veteran police officer says Chief Best was the ‘rock of the department’
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced she is retiring, effective Sept. 2. Her decision comes less than a day after the Seattle City Council moved forward with cuts to the Seattle Police Department, including big cuts from the command staff salaries.
Veteran officers are speaking out, including Eric Michl, and a lot of them seem to be rocked to the core by Best’s announcement. Michl has been with the SPD for more than 40 years.
“I’m saddened,” he told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “We had heard something like this was cooking a while ago, but we didn’t think it was going to happen this soon and this quick.”
Michl thinks the council broke her.
“Look at the the salary reduction, … that was insulting, I think,” he said. “And I agree with her that it was … punitive, directed towards her because she spoke out against their proposals to cut the department, and it was retaliatory. This is a retaliatory attack. I’ve never seen anything like this occur before in my 40 years.”
“I think it hurt her, personally, and I understand why that would be because she put her heart into this organization for a very long time,” he added.
Michl says he actually met Chief Best on her first day as an officer on the street, so he’s known her throughout her entire career. He says she’s made some bold decisions in her years with SPD, but he has full confidence in her.
“She’s not one to back down, and I don’t think the council liked that, and this is their way of getting even with her,” he said. “And that’s what happened. I think she’s finally just fed up with it.”
As a boss, Michl described Best as the “rock of the department.”
“You know where you stand with her and what she expects from you, and she’s not afraid to come out and back you up, and that’s what makes her such a good leader,” he said. “She comes from within, and she demonstrated that when she when she objected to the council’s cuts. … She’s got the best interest of the city at heart, and she didn’t cave in to them, and that’s what I like about her as a leader.”
On the other side, he’s also seen her fire or demote a few officers, which he believes were the right calls to make in those cases.
“I probably disagree with the guild a little bit on this, but I think that the people that she’s let go was an appropriate decision,” he said. “So I support her in that regard also. I think she’s a solid leader.”
With morale already low in the police department, Michl did say there are a number of officer looking for jobs elsewhere. He said he was offered a job in another department as well. To bring back morale, he says there needs to be a return to the balance between enforcement and community investment.
“We need to go back to what attracted me to the job originally, and that’s a balance,” he said.
There’s a time, he says, when police officers are the enforcer, the friend, the guardian, or the service man or woman.
“You have to be multifaceted to be a successful police officer, I think,” Michl said. “And I feel that that’s being taken away from us, … we don’t have the opportunities to make the connections in the communities that we’re patrolling like we used to.”
Michl is worried the council’s plan won’t include a return in that form.
“All we’re going to be doing is going from urgent 911 call to 911 call. We’re not gonna have that 40-60% of our time to simply interact with people in a non enforcement role, get to know people, and be accepted within their neighborhoods, which is what attracted me to this line of work 45, 46 years ago now,” he said.
In order to make change, Michl thinks voters have to speak up.
“I think the voters have to weigh in on this,” he said. “The voters have to speak, the people that either that didn’t vote, the silent majority that … haven’t said anything, haven’t spoken up yet, they’ve got to voice their concerns.”
“The second thing is, I think that the best cops are the ones that have a true investment in the communities that they serve,” he added. “… We have to do something to make the job more attractive to folks that are already invested in the city. That’s a start, I think, but that’s going to be difficult to do.”
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