Opinion

Veteran Seattle Cop and Interim Police Chief Carmen Best Passed Over: City Insults its Cops— Yet Again

In a move that surprised many Seattleites, King 5 News recently reported that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Seattle police chief selection committee passed over current acting Chief Carmen Best, a 26-year Seattle police veteran, in selecting three finalists.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole stepped down on December 31, 2017, after two-and-a-half years at the helm. Deputy Chief Carmen Best succeeded O’Toole as interim chief on January 1, 2018 and has been serving in that capacity ever since.

A group that Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Kevin Stuckey described as “a secret committee of three” made the finalists selections. Reportedly, the committee scored Chief Best fifth out of the five candidates. And since it’s not hard to guess the type of folks far-leftist, anti-cop Mayor Durkan would put on such a committee, you can surmise whoever the committee placed last likely had the most support from the city’s cops.

The three finalists are Inspector Eddie Frizell of the Minneapolis Police Department, former Pittsburg Police Chief Camron S. McLay, and Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Ely Reyes.

With the left’s preoccupation with identity politics, it’s surprising to see the committee eliminate a candidate supported not only by the rank-and-file but also by activist political groups standing behind a tried and true police veteran who happens to be black and female. For Seattle’s cops and leftwing activists to agree on anything is rare. And while agreement on other issues going forward may not happen, Chief Best might have provided a more promising starting point.

But this shows you how, rather than even race and gender, for Seattle’s political leaders, being anti-cop is a higher priority. Now, I don’t know the candidates chosen as finalists, and they may be as good or better than Chief Best. As they say, only time will tell. But the insult by the city’s political establishment directed at Best and the men and women of the Seattle Police Department to not include her among the finalists is stunning.

In a statement, SPOG President Stuckey expressed extreme disappointment and anger at some comments made by former interim mayor and current accomplished police critic and city council member Tim Burgess.

Stuckey wrote, “Burgess, speaking as a co-chair of the Chief’s Selection Committee, downplayed all of the accomplishments and reforms that have been achieved by the men and women of the Seattle Police Department over the past five years and commented that an ‘outsider’ was needed for the top job to ‘change the culture of the department.’”

Burgess blathered, “the department has made tremendous progress in reform” (“reform” stemming from the fraudulent consent decree foisted on the SPD in 2012 by President Obama’s DOJ with the help of former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington and current Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan). Burgess said, “there is still a lot of work yet to do, including some of the foundational cultural reform that has yet to take root, and we felt it was best at this point for an outsider to come in as chief of police.” According to Jason Rantz of KTTH 770 Radio, City Councilwoman Lorena Gonzalez, also no fan of cops, made similar comments about “cultural changes in our police department.”

Stuckey added, “For former Mayor Burgess to downplay this achievement [full DOJ compliance under O’Toole and Best] is an insult to each and every member of the department who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time.” Despite the fraudulent nature of the consent decree, the department accomplished what the DOJ set out for them to do. But that’s not enough for Seattle’s leftist city leaders.

By the way, most of those “foundational cultural reforms” and “cultural changes” Burgess and Gonzalez are talking about are the last vestiges of true law enforcement. True law enforcement should be a means toward achieving a public safety end and not a means to a partisan social justice “reform” quagmire.

King 5 News reported, “In a memo to Durkan dated last Friday, the search committee found serious long-running issues in the department, hinting at a need for an outside perspective.” Wanna bet some of those “long-running issues” involve police officers resisting political indoctrination and continuing to try to enforce the law the way it should be done?

Seattle’s social justices show zero respect for cops and what cops do as they promote the Marxist Black Lives Matter myths—hands up, don’t shoot. All they care about is how they feel cops should do police work. You know, like acting as armed social workers, enforcing socialist policies while they tell officers not to enforce effective laws the social justices don’t like and not to enforce laws against certain politically protected “victims.”

I’ll tell you what: I don’t want to see a police department that the current crop of political leaders is happy with because, if that happens, it won’t be a police force worth the price of a single badge pinned on a single uniform.

The city’s inept social justice warriors bristle when they see real police work because its effective, it’s necessary, and it works. Good police work—you know, radical concepts such as enforcing the law—can help solve social issues such as so-called homelessness (in its myriad configurations) and the blight, filth, and crime that accompany it.

But that would mean cops enforcing laws the city council and mayor currently tell officers to ignore. If that happens, what will leftist candidates run on during the next election cycle? They cannot solve social problems; they need social problems. In other words, leftist candidates continually run on wanting to “fix” things. But they can’t fix something that’s not broken; so, if it’s not broken, break it. If it is broken, like “homelessness,” keep it that way.

The thing Carmen Best had going against her was support among rank-and-file cops. Now, I will not pretend that Best might not be seen by some officers as simply the better of the evils because she is one of their own. But even though the community also favors Best, including leftist activists, any police officer support at all seems to be the kiss of death for a police chief candidate in Seattle.

KTTH Radio’s Rantz also wrote that it was Durkan’s advisers that removed Best from consideration. According to David Kroman of Crosscut.com, [the advisers] “were not part of the original committee.” Kroman also published Community Police Commission internal emails which were highly critical of the “secretive process” that reduced the list from five to three. The emails asserted [Lorena] Gonzalez reneged on a promise not to use a rankings system during the selection process. Kroman also reports not only cops but also community activists are calling for a “re-do” of the selection process.

In fact, the final-three selection process was so secretive, Community Police Commission member Enrique Gonzalez said, “We were all selected by the Mayor and we were put forward to do a process that has now turned into a secretive process, one that we cannot support.” And police guild president Kevin Stuckey said the process was so secret, he wasn’t notified until three minutes before the committee made its decision public.

The search committee wasn’t done slamming the SPD. They released a memo on May 25. In a great ironic twist, these lofty intellectuals cited one problem is that less than 50 percent of SPD’s sworn officers are assigned to patrol. These are the guys and gals who answer 911 calls. The committee prefers the national practice of 60 percent.

I actually agree with that, but here’s the irony. It’s anti-cop leftists like those on the police chief selection committee who are responsible for cop-depleting actions such as imposing federal consent decrees. It is well known that these decrees create bureaucracies that take officers off the streets. More officers are needed for use-of-force investigations (some of these incidents are laughably petty to non-existent).

For example, these teams were being formed while I was still on the job. I remember one incident where we were taking a man with mental issues into protective custody. Firefighter/EMTs had called for a private ambulance to transport the cooperative man. The man was lying on a gurney with officers standing by, no officer touching him. As the private ambulance crew fastened one of the restraints across the man’s chest, the man said, “Ouch!” when he heard the buckle click. He suffered no injury, not even a pinch.

This non-event activated a Force Investigation Team (FIT) call-out. So, there were not only the officers already taken off the streets to serve on the FIT team but also all of us cops on the scene had to come off the street to complete statements about, well, in this case, nothing.

The committee also further maligned the city’s cops with this gem, “SPD lacks supervisor accountability standards and capabilities… SPD officers and detectives produce an inconsistent work product in terms of thoroughness and accuracy.”

Thoroughness and accuracy? It’s looney lefties like those on this committee that came up with cops no longer being allowed to refer to accused felons as suspects in reports. They now have to use “community member.” Tell me: How accurate is that?

With the new consent decree-spawned policies, officers have told me that supervisors have so much “accountability standards and capabilities,” officers resist reporting anything questionable to them unless absolutely necessary. If supervisors don’t report anything an officer says that civilian oversight may view as misconduct, the supervisor can be brought up on his or her own disciplinary charges. Cops don’t want to ring a bell that can’t be un-rung or put their sergeants in jeopardy.

Full disclosure—and I’ve mentioned this in other articles: I served under Carmen Best many years ago when she was promoted to sergeant. I’ll keep it simple: I had no complaints. And that says a lot about a supervisor, coming from a veteran patrol officer.

This baffling committee decision is just another in a long line of dubious actions coming out of the city’s muddled political power structure. Seattleites should be getting used to it. In fact, the city’s new motto should be: Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

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Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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