Carmen Best back in running for Seattle Police chief

Former Pittsburgh chief pulls out to possibly assume different SPD position

Carmen Best back in running for Seattle Police chief

Carmen Best back in running for Seattle Police chief

The mayor’s news release states a number of police chief community meetings and interviews with Durkan will take place this coming week, but provides no details on when and where.

Interim Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best is back in the running to take on the job permanently, after one of the three finalists for the position dropped out.

On the heels of media reports that former Pittsburgh police chief Cameron McLay was out as a finalist for Seattle’s top job, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office issued a rare Saturday news release stating McLay is being considered for a different role within the department.

"I met with former Chief McLay, reviewed his competitive exam materials, and have spoken with a number of individuals including the Mayor of Pittsburgh about his work. He understands the complexity of policing and has been a national leader on police reform. In our first conversation in June, he indicated that his strongest passion is in reform. The Seattle Police Department remains under federal court order and is in a critical two year compliance sustainment period. This upcoming week, Federal Judge Robart has called all parties to court for a status report, and I was briefed by the City Attorney and SPD ahead of the conference," Durkan said in the news release. "One of my key priorities as Mayor has been to sustain reforms while continuing to build our nation-leading police department. I have been exploring a range of options to not just sustain reform, but continue to improve the department to meet the needs of our fast growing city.  We need additional expertise to help the City in assessing our path forward under the Consent Decree and our work with the DOJ and the Monitoring Team I talked with Chief McLay this past week and we agreed that assisting on reform efforts was the best way he could help Seattle."

Kathleen O’Toole resigned as Seattle police chief at the end of 2017, having served for three years. Best, who has 26 years of experience with the SPD, and had been deputy chief in charge of Patrol Operations, Criminal Investigations, Special Operations Bureau, and the Community Outreach section, was appointed interim chief; she immediately put her name in for consideration to continue in that role permanently.

A 25-member search committee had been convened to go over viable applicants, and had selected five finalists that included Best. A number of committee and community members protested when they found out those candidates were whittled down to three finalists who were announced on May 25.

“The process itself has not been an honest process, it has been a broken process, and we are very concerned that we are not in a position to select somebody that the community can accept based on a broken process,” said search committee member Enrique Gonzalez during a press conference following the finalists announcement, who was quoted by KUOW. Gonzalez is also a Community Police Commission co-chair.

After McLay withdrew from consideration, the Competitive Exam reconvened and tapped Best to replace him as an additional candidate, according to the mayor’s office.

Minneapolis Police Inspector Eddie Frizell and Austin Police Assistant Chief Ely Reyes were the other finalists named in May, and will continue through the vetting process.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild has been complaining about a lack of morale regarding city politics, which has reportedly resulted in a number of recent resignations within the SPD. SPOG referred to McLay’s past in Pittsburgh, as reported by Q13, calling it “Yet another hit to morale” in a June 30 Twitter post.

Pittsburgh’s Trib Total Media reports McLay and the Pittsburgh Police union were at “near-constant friction” during his time as police chief. He took the position in August 2014, and resigned in November 2016, several weeks after the local Fraternal Order of Police made a vote of no confidence in his leadership, according to the Trib.

“As a law enforcement officer and former Chief of Police for the City of Pittsburgh, my passion has been on the processes for creating transformational change and organizational excellence,” McLay said in Durkan’s new release. “After a lot of thought about how I can make the biggest impact, and after conversations with my family and with Mayor Durkan over the last several weeks, it is clear to me that I can most effectively support Seattle’s continued reform efforts outside of the role of Chief of Police, which is why I've withdrawn from consideration to be the Seattle Police Department’s next Chief of Police.”

LAPD Assistant Police Chief Jorge Villegas was also considered in the second Competitive Exam process, having been on the initial list of five candidates submitted by the search committee.

An LAPD detective accused Villegas in 2017 of not reading a document that was part of his civil case against the Los Angeles department for retaliation, for which he ultimately received a $1.5 million judgment. That detective now leads the union for LAPD officers.

Frizell sued the City of Minneapolis and Chief Janée Harteau over his demotion from deputy chief of patrol to lieutenant following an unsuccessful bid for Hennepin County sheriff. A U.S. District judge dismissed the case in July 2016.