Interim Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Minneapolis police Inspector Eddie Frizell and Austin, Texas, Assistant Police Chief Ely Reyes answered questions from community activists and African-American clergy at a forum sponsored by Not This Time!.
The three finalists competing to become Seattle’s next police chief told a skeptical and boisterous audience Wednesday night they will not hesitate to hold officers accountable and not tolerate biased policing.
Interim Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Minneapolis police Inspector Eddie Frizell and Austin, Texas, Assistant Police Chief Ely Reyes, appearing separately, answered questions from community activists and African-American clergy at a forum sponsored by Not This Time!, a social-justice and police-reform organization whose members include people who have lost relatives to police use of deadly force.
Best, a 26-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department, told a crowd of several hundred that police work is no longer about “car chases and gunfights” and is now focused on serving the public.
She said racial profiling is unacceptable, citing the firing of a Seattle officer over her interactions with an African-American man using a golf club as a cane that she viewed as a weapon.
“Zero tolerance, that is the thing,” Best said at the forum, held at Seattle Vocational Institute near 23rd and Jackson Street in the city’s diverse Central District.
She said she is best equipped to take on the challenges of being chief because Seattle is her city.
“I’m the hometown girl,” Best said, pledging to reduce crime and disorder.
Frizell introduced himself as “proud black man” who, if selected, would seek out young people to become police officers or to pursue other careers as part of his belief in intervening in the lives of young people.
“Bring me your best and brightest,” he said, joining at one point in a loud, standing ovation for the young people in the room.
He said he was attracted to the Seattle job because the city is on the “cutting edge” of police reform.
Reyes said he wouldn’t let a police union get in the way of accountability.
“It’s either right or it’s wrong,” he said of what’s acceptable behavior.
When the Rev. Kenneth J. Ransfer Sr, pastor of Greater Mount Baker Baptist Church in Seattle, asked about President Donald Trump’s remark that police shouldn’t worry about hitting the heads of people while being put into patrol cars, Reyes said Austin police don’t tolerate such actions.
Officers are not even allowed to have offensive tattoos, he said.
All three candidates are making the rounds of community groups this week and will be interviewed by Mayor Jenny Durkan on Friday.
Durkan is likely to choose Best, according to sources, but has insisted the process remains open. She is to announce her choice in the next few weeks.
The new chief will take over a department that has been laboring to comply with a federal consent decree aimed at addressing Department of Justice findings that SPD officers routinely engaged in the use of excessive force. The DOJ also found evidence of biased policing.
A federal judge overseeing the process in January found the department had reached initial full compliance with the document.