By Dan Frosch and Deanna Paul 

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she is quitting her post following votes by the city council Monday to cut her department's budget, including her own salary, and reduce the number of police officers.

Ms. Best, the city's first Black police chief, has opposed calls by city council members to cut the department's budget by as much as 50%, part of a nationwide effort by progressive activists to defund police departments following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers. She said she had been left out of a push by the Democratic-controlled council to reform the department.

The city council on Monday voted to cut close to $4 million from the police department's budget of $170 million for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to city council members. The cuts will result in 32 fewer patrol officers and less money for recruitment, training and specialized departments. The Seattle Police Department previously had about 1,400 officers.

Seattle had experienced widespread, sometimes violent protests against police brutality since the killing of George Floyd in May. Several downtown blocks were taken over by protesters, with virtually no police presence, for three weeks earlier in the summer, which ended after several violent incidents prompted police to retake control of the area. Protesters also held a demonstration last week at Ms. Best's home outside the city.

"This was a difficult decision for me, but when it's time, it's time," Ms. Best said in a letter that was sent out to the Seattle police department Monday night. "I look forward to seeing how this department moves forward through the process of re-envisioning public safety."

The abrupt announcement of her retirement, which Ms. Best said would go into effect on Sept. 2, caught local officials off guard. Mayor Jenny Durkan and Ms. Best were scheduled to speak at a news conference later on Tuesday.

Ms. Durkan praised Ms. Best in her own letter to the department, saying she'd accept her resignation "with a heavy heart" and lauding the chief for being a strong proponent of community policing.

Police chiefs in several other cities have either stepped down or been fired amid the protests that followed Mr. Floyd's death and widespread calls to overhaul police department policies and cut spending.

"I think the current rush to reform the police through dramatic budget cuts and calls to eliminate police departments has left chiefs throughout the country in untenable situations," said Frank Straub, a top official with the National Police Foundation, a law-enforcement think tank, and a former chief in Spokane, Wash. "We are losing incredibly talented and dedicated public servants at a time when our country needs them most."

The Seattle-King County Black Lives Matter group also decried Chief Best's retirement, calling it "a loss" and criticizing the city council for not working harder to keep her.

"It does nothing to further our fight for authentic police accountability and the safety of Black lives, that the first Black woman to hold the position of Chief of Police of the Seattle Police Department has been forced out of her job by the Seattle City Council," the group said in a statement.

Write to Dan Frosch at and Deanna Paul at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 11, 2020 13:36 ET (17:36 GMT)

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