Carmen Best, the police chief who retired from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) last month in protest over the City Council’s plan to lay off officers and slash the department’s budget, made her debut Friday morning on TODAY as an NBC News and MSNBC contributor, the national network confirmed this week.
Best, who pre-taped a segment with NBC News’ Kate Snow and other police leaders, appeared on TODAY during the 7 a.m. hour.
On Monday, Seattle NBC affiliate KING 5 announced Best would become the station’s law-enforcement analyst, with her first on-air appearance occurring that afternoon.
“There aren’t that many people who have been police chiefs of major cities who can talk about that experience, especially in this era of social reckoning, race and social justice and all the other societal issues that are coming to bear,” Best, 55, said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re at the precipice, the cusp, of a lot of change that will set the trajectory for the future. We need to get it right because the stakes are very high.”
Best, who rose through the SPD ranks during a nearly 30-year career, has already jump-started her second act: On Oct. 2, she began working for a global private security company she declined to name, and a few days later, her divorce from her husband Larry was finalized.
“It’s sort of a lot of change, working in the private sector, and I’m freshly single,” said Best. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds, whatever that is.”
In September, Best also became a first-time grandmother, when her eldest daughter Whitney and son-in-law John welcomed baby girl Nala. Best has since made a couple of trips to Southern California to visit the family.
“It’s awesome being a grandmother. It’s really fun,” she said. “I’m really enjoying that aspect of my life.”
Reflecting on her decision to leave SPD, Best said, “Honestly, for me, there was no other option. I wasn’t going to lay off those officers or try to run a department with half the resources,” especially at a time when violent crime is on the rise.
“It does break my heart to see people leaving,” Best said of news reports that 110 Seattle police officers have left the department so far this year, 39 of them in September alone. “Chief (Adrian) Diaz is doing all he can to work through it.”
Her new job as an NBC News/MSNBC contributor and a KING 5 law-enforcement analyst means she’ll be able to express opinions on policies and reforms impacting policing. She said she will be called on as issues arise or events unfold.
“I’m excited about this opportunity. It gives me a chance to still have an impact on these important issues,” Best said. “I care what happens in the city and I care what happens in this profession, locally and nationally.”