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Police panel: Hunt for Seattle's next chief was flawed, lacked transparency

Carmen Best nominated to be Seattle police chief (KOMO News photo)

SEATTLE - Members of Seattle's Community Police Commission said Wednesday they support the choice of Carmen Best as the city's next police chief - but they're not at all pleased with how the selection process unfolded.

Commission members voiced frustration last month that Best was not - at that time - on the short list of candidates, despite the fact she spent her entire policing career in Seattle and has deep community ties.

Then suddenly Best was back in the running for the top post on Seattle's police force, to be nominated by Mayor Jenny Durkan on Tuesday, after another finalist for the job withdrew from consideration.

But commissioners believe the process unfolded without much transparency or formal input from the commission - and the next time Seattle picks a police chief, they want to have a say in it.

"I know that there has been a lot of tension around how that oversight (works) and what our role has been," said Commissoner Enrique Gonzales. "We're going to have to do this at some point again, and when we do that again it should be expected that, as a commission, this body is going to weigh in on what that process looks like."

He added: "The community police commission is supposed to make recommendations around policy changes and processes as they happen, and I think that doesn't just mean that we watch the police department, but I think it means that we watch everything that revolves around the police department, including the selection of the chief of police."

The commission initially was upset enough about Best being passed over and the perceived lack of transparency in the decision-making process that they hired an independent expert to assess potential legal issues.

The commission was mandated under the settlement agreement between the city and U.S. Department of Justice to provide community input on needed police reforms. Members of the commission are meant to represent the city’s diversity.

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