Former SPD chief offers new details on why East Precinct was abandoned last summer

May 25, 2021, 8:36 AM | Updated: 11:09 am
Seattle police East Precinct...
SPD's East Precinct in June of 2020. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nearly a year after the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct was temporarily abandoned last summer, former Chief Carmen Best has provided further insight into the decision making that took place behind the scenes.

Seattle police remove concrete barriers outside East Precinct

In early June, sources confirmed to KIRO Radio at the time that preparations were underway to secure the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, remove sensitive materials, and potentially abandon the building. Days later, SPD left the precinct entirely, and protesters moved in, setting up barricades and forming what would later become known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.

Days and weeks later, questions began to swirl over who it was that gave the order to clear out the precinct building. That saw Best issuing a statement saying that it was not her decision, and that the city had “relented to severe public pressure.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a similar denial, stating that she had not directly ordered officers to leave the East Precinct either, and that the decision was made by “SPD frontline commanders on site.”

Speaking to former British police officer Jeremy Ratcliffe earlier this week for his “Reducing Crime” podcast — and first reported by KUOW — Best expanded on how things played out behind the scenes, reaffirming that she had at no point ordered officers to leave the precinct.

She instead appeared to confirm Durkan’s original assertion last summer, that it was frontline commanders at the scene who ultimately gave the order, going on to note that hours before the precinct was abandoned, she had even told an assistant chief over the phone not to clear the area.

“I said, ‘Well, listen, we are not going to evacuate that precinct,’” Best described to Ratcliffe. “Those were my last words. She hung up, I hung up. A couple hours later, they evacuated the precinct. I’m like, ‘what happened?’ It just wasn’t clear exactly what transpired.”

SPD interim chief: ‘We are a safe city’ despite concerns over police staffing

According to Best, commanders were “told by the fire department that our building, which has contiguous walls, if it gets set on fire, it’s going up quickly,” fueling concerns that Mayor Durkan ordering the removal of barriers a block away from the precinct would lead to protesters attempting to set the building aflame.

“We’d already had the one precinct in Minneapolis that had been burned,” Best said.

During a protest later on in the summer, demonstrators did eventually attempt to set fire to the precinct building, using what appeared to be quick-dry cement to seal one of the exits. Days later, SPD installed 6-foot-tall concrete barriers that remained in place for months.

These new details also paint a broad picture of additional information the public may very well never end up seeing, given that text messages from that period from Durkan, Best, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, and at least three members of SPD’s command staff have all since gone missing.

The city attorney’s office told the Seattle Times in early May it is “still ascertaining” how Best’s texts went missing, while Scoggins was said to have been “locked out of his phone because of password issues.” Texts among members of SPD’s command staff from last June allegedly went missing due to “password and device management software problems,” while Durkan’s office said she had inadvertently set her phone to automatically delete text messages after 30 days.

The concrete barriers in front of the East Precinct were removed in early May, and replaced with less intrusive temporary fencing to allow for pedestrian access to the surrounding sidewalks.

Local News

Frank Sumrall

State Rep: ‘None of these locations are suitable’ for a future airport

According to Jason Rantz, the acting chairman of CACC, Warren Hendrickson, stated he believes none of the airport locations will move forward.
19 hours ago
(KIRO 7)...
Shawn Garrett, KIRO 7 News

Deputies seize nearly 100 pounds of drugs during Tacoma arrest

Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department seized nearly 100 pounds of drugs while arresting a man with a felony warrant in Tacoma
19 hours ago
police pursuit...
Matt Markovich

Source of pursuit deaths updates controversial data

Stats used by legislators to consider changing police pursuit laws may be in question.
19 hours ago
Nicole Jennings

‘Recycle, don’t throw out’ newest message from King County initiative

King County has launched a new initiative to get people to recycle or reuse items before automatically throwing them out.
19 hours ago
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Pedestrian hit by train in Belltown, police investigate

Seattle Police are investigating after a man was hit by a train near Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood Thursday night.
19 hours ago
Bill Kaczaraba

Lovable radio host Frasier returns, but not to Seattle

Frasier, the lovable but loveless radio host who put Seattle on the map will not be returning to the Emerald City.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Former SPD chief offers new details on why East Precinct was abandoned last summer