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Seattle police chief resigns in wake of 'personal' budget cuts to department

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(NEW YORK) — Seattle’s police chief resigned late Monday in the wake of protests against police brutality and a recent Seattle City Council vote to defund her department by 14%.

Carmen Best announced her shocking retirement in an email to staff, saying it was a “difficult decision,” but the department formally announced her departure in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m sad to leave in some ways but you know when it’s time it’s time,” Best told reporters. “You will always be in my heart. You are without a doubt the best police department in the country.”

“What is important is you have remained committed to being the best to continuously improving and innovating,” she added.

Best, who made history when she became the city’s first Black female police chief in 2018, said the resignation would be effective Sept. 2. She had been with the department for 28 years.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan became emotional as she praised Best, calling her “the model for what we need.”

“She loves the city she served. She loves the department and her officers. She has fought to keep her officers safe and healthy and get them the resources they need to do their jobs,” Durkan said. “She has been a role model for so many women, especially young black women and girls. She does it always such grace was such a great sense of humor in such a great deep humility.”

She said called her departure a “deep loss for our city,” especially during the ongoing civil unrest happening throughout the city and across the nation.

She noted that Best helped the city grapple with a global pandemic “that’s getting worse” and guided it through “a civil rights reckoning that has made our nation, our state and our city confront, acknowledge and begin to truly address the generational harms caused by systemic racism.”

The mayor also criticized the city council for targeting Best with budget cuts while refusing to make cuts to their own salaries or other departments.

Durkan has appointed deputy chief Adrian Diaz as interim police chief. He has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years.

The announcement came came just hours after the city’s council voted to reduce the department’s spending plan by 14%, far below the 50% reduction that some council members had advocated for.

Approval of the measure first came with an 7-1 vote on several amendments introduced by the council that included cutting the pay of top police officers and eliminating the Navigation Team and SWAT unit.

Best and Durkan had both urged the council to delay the budget cuts until 2021.

“I definitely think it’s personal, but with that said, I’m stepping out of the way and doing what a real leader would do and focusing on what’s going to help the organization and the wheel forward,” Best said. “The council gave us $1.6 million to make sure that we hired the best and the brightest and the most diverse and brought them on and less than a year later, we’re gonna just turn them all away.”

“It feels very duplicitous and, honestly, I just, I have my convictions I cannot do that,” she added.

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