Seattle Police Chief Resigns -- 2nd Update
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 to cut the
department budget, including her own salary, and reduce the police
force, as part of an effort to reform policing.
Ms. Best, the city's first Black police chief, is the latest in
a string of high-profile chiefs to depart following sometimes
violent protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Since the May 25 killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis
police custody, top law-enforcement officials in Portland, Atlanta,
Los Angeles and Louisville have cut short their tenures as 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,
In Chicago this past weekend, some residents looted stores
following a police shooting of a 20-year-old man who officers said
fired on them first. Increasingly violent protests around
Portland's federal courthouse stopped once federal agents mostly
withdrew from the city last week, but a smaller group committed
property crimes in the nights since. Protesters set fire to an
occupied building that houses Portland's police union headquarters
Saturday night in what police declared a riot.
Such events pose particular challenges to police in
predominantly liberal cities where calls have increased to spend
less on law enforcement and to reduced the use of force.
"When you have people hellbent on destruction, the police have
to find the best way to respond," said Chuck Wexler, executive
director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington D.C.
think tank that advises departments on best practices and policy.
He said police sometimes needed to use tear gas or weapons such as
batons to curb violence, tactics that have drawn criticism from
protesters in the past few months.
Portland police declared a riot last week and used tear gas to
dispel protesters gathered outside a city police station.
The continuing violence -- and a recent jumps in homicides --
also have caused difficult conversations among activists, according
to Cameron Whitten, co-founder of the Black Resilience Fund, an
emergency fund for Black Portland residents that was started after
Mr. Floyd's death.
"Now there are Black leaders who have rallied for a refunding of
the police]," said Mr. Whitten.
Portland Police Chief Jami Resch stepped down earlier this
summer as criticism over her handling of the protests increased.
Weeks later, the city council approved a multimillion-dollar
reduction in the department budget and Mayor Ted Wheeler announced
a 19-point plan to overhaul policing in the city.
In Seattle, Ms. Best, who stepped in as interim chief in 2018,
previously opposed calls by city council members to cut the
department's budget by as much as 50%. On Monday, the day after she
described to them her vision for the future of policing in Seattle,
including how to handle funding reductions, council members voted
to cut her $294,000 salary by $20,000. The vote also reduced the
department's budget of $170 million for the remainder of the fiscal
year by nearly $4 million. That will result in the loss of about
100 officers from a force of about 1,400 and less money for
recruitment, training and specialized departments.
The chief said at a press conference Tuesday that 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
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan praised Ms. Best for addressing
flare-ups in gun violence, diversifying the department and reducing
its use of force. "They targeted Carmen Best," Ms. Durkan said at
the press conference. "It was so mystifying to see the city council
plow ahead without listening to her pleas."
City Council President M. Lorena González said in a statement
Monday that the budget changes were a 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.
In a statement Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr praised
Ms. Best and said, "This experience should be a lesson to state and
local leaders about the real costs of irresponsible proposals to
defund the police."
Write to Deanna Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dan Frosch at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 11, 2020 19:12 ET (23:12 GMT)
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