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Former SPD chief calls for police departments to ‘evolve and reimagine’ policies in 2021

Jan 4, 2021, 5:05 AM | Updated: 10:20 am
Chief Best, SPD, police...
Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

2020 was a year that saw nationwide calls for police reform, from New York City to Seattle. As for whether that momentum can carry over into 2021, former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best spoke to MSNBC about how that can be achieved.

SPD officers line 5th Avenue to honor Chief Best on her last day

Best, who retired as SPD’s chief in September 2020 and now works as a law enforcement analyst for NBC News, detailed the need for a “community-led” process” last week, while focusing more on specific policy goals and less on catchy slogans.

“My biggest fear is that we’re going to end the year tied to slogans and mantras, and we might fall short if we’re not laser-focused on moving things forward,” she noted.

She went on to push for police departments in every city to “evolve and reimagine what policing looks like” in the months to come, and ensure that the community is sufficiently bought in to the process.

“We haven’t been able to work with the community in the way we need to,” she said. “It has to be community led. Public safety is just that: public, everybody’s safety.”

Seattle and beyond react to Chief Best’s retirement announcement

In Seattle, interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz has emphasized the need for more officers as his priority for the department in 2021, after an estimated 191 separations in 2020 (an all-inclusive term covering resignations, retirements, and firings).

This comes in the wake of a 17% cut to SPD’s budget in 2021, well short of the 50% benchmark activists had called for over the summer.

City leaders have vowed to continue discussing reforms to how the city views policing. That includes the implementation of an unarmed community service officers program, which will be tasked with responding to specific types of calls for service that don’t necessitate the presence of an armed patrol officer.

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Former SPD chief calls for police departments to ‘evolve and reimagine’ policies in 2021