Seattle Police Department gets new interim chief
SEATTLE -- Dressed in her workout clothes, only hours after going to bed after ringing in the new year with her predecessor, Seattle’s newest police chief hefted boxes up and down the hall to her new office.
On Monday, Carmen Best, a 26-year department veteran, took over the department as the interim leader. The 52-year-old has been the second-in-command, as deputy chief, for nearly three and a half years.
“Of course my heart lies here in Seattle,” Best said emphatically on Monday. “What would be better than to work your way through an organization that you love, in a city that you love, in a place that I’m from and end my career there.”
Best grew up in Tacoma and attended Eastern Washington University. After graduating, she enlisted in the Army then returned here to work at an insurance company. She said she met her husband, Larry Best, before joining the department. The couple have two grown daughters.
She said she “took a chance and applied for the Seattle Police Department and I’ve never looked back.”
Best said that if someone asked her four years ago, when she was the captain of the South Precinct, that she’d be leading the department after Chief Kathleen O’Toole she would have been incredulous.
“Four years ago I probably would not have seen myself being the Chief,” Best said, adding that she’s now “ready.”
Best said she has worked closely with O’Toole to learn how to lead the department. O’Toole, when she announced her resignation at City Hall last month, praised Best.
Mayor Jenny Durkan, last month, announced that a search committee will help locate the next Chief of Police.
“Whoever the next chief is will have a very large task of making sure that we continue reforms, that we stay in compliance and that we continually improve as a police department,” Durkan said last month.
O’Toole was brought in to help the department through Department of Justice oversight and reform. The department has been under federal oversight since 2012; they’ve been ordered to overhaul may policies including officers’ use of excessive force.
While the search committee will look across the country for a permanent replacement for O’Toole, many community members in Seattle support Best staying put.
“I don’t think there’s anyone out there in America who can beat her record,” said Rev. Harriett Walden. “She’s come up through the ranks and there’s a lot to be said about rank and file.”
Best put out a memo to officers just after taking over the department at midnight, a note to the public came out Monday morning. In it she said the department will focus on reducing crime, offering excellent service, be professional, be efficient and use data to fight crime.
“Ultimately I really want to humanize the police department to the community we serve, so people realize we’re a part of the community, not apart from the community,” Best said.
Best added that she will be naming her replacement as Deputy Chief, as well as filling a few other positions, on Tuesday.