By Deanna Paul and Dan Frosch 

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

Ms. Best, the city's first Black police chief, previously opposed calls by city council members to cut the department's budget by as much as 50%, part of a nationwide effort 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 out of 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.

At a press conference Tuesday, Ms. Best criticized the city council for what she described as an "overarching disrespect of the officers," adding, "this was a decision I wrestled with."

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 noted that local lawmakers cut Ms. Best's salary the day after she described her vision for the future of policing in the city, including how to handle funding reductions.

"They targeted Carmen Best," Ms. Durkan said. "It was so mystifying to see the city council plow ahead without listening to her pleas."

Ms. Best said the cut in her salary "felt very vindictive and very punitive," adding that she didn't want the police force to be affected by "the animus directed toward me."

City Council President M. Lorena González said in a statement Monday that the rebalanced budget was in response to calls for racial justice and investments in minority communities. Along with the police cuts, the city council agreed to invest $17 million in community-led safety efforts.

Ms. Durkan lauded the chief on Tuesday for addressing increases in gun violence, diversifying the department and reducing its use of force.

Seattle had experienced widespread, sometimes violent protests against police brutality since the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in May. Several blocks were taken over by protesters, with virtually no police presence, for three weeks. The chief also said her home outside the city had been targeted by protesters.

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 basic functions.

"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.

The Seattle-King County Black Lives Matter group also decried Chief Best's retirement, calling it a loss for the city.

Write to Deanna Paul at and Dan Frosch at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 11, 2020 15:54 ET (19:54 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.