The police-chief nominee pledged to hold officers accountable as the department undergoes a two-year period in which it must show that it is continuing to adhere to federally mandated reforms.
Interim Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best sailed through her first confirmation hearing Wednesday on her nomination for the permanent post, just over a week after Mayor Jenny Durkan chose her to lead the department as it works to foster public trust and complete federally mandated reforms.
Only weeks after she emerged as the top choice, after it appeared she wouldn’t get the $250,000-a-year job, Best told the City Council’s public-safety committee she’s committed to cultivating a culture of innovation and improvement in a department dedicated to treating everyone fairly.
“In terms of community policing, I believe we lead by example,” Best said, explaining that officers need to look for ways to engage with people.
Best’s appearance before the committee was the first step in the confirmation process, which will be followed by a 6 p.m. public hearing Wednesday in the council chambers at City Hall.
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The committee will hold another meeting Aug. 8, during which it is expected to go beyond the general topics discussed Wednesday and explore Best’s views in more detail. The committee likely will vote on her nomination then, followed by a full-council vote as early as Aug. 13.
Best pledged to hold officers accountable as the department undergoes a two-year period in which it must show that it is continuing to adhere to a 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to address excessive use of force and biased policing. A federal judge found the department to be in compliance with the agreement in January, triggering the review period.
Best said she benefitted from working as deputy chief under her predecessor, Kathleen O’Toole, an internationally recognized reformer who left at the end of the year.
Speaking on the rewards of reform, Best drew laughter when she said it was nicer to see people smile and wave with “all five fingers.”
Reducing crime and disorder is also a top priority, Best said, noting “we fundamentally are a police department.”
Homelessness, however, is not a crime, she said, calling it a complex problem requiring social services.
Best said that she wants to build a diverse, service-minded department, but that recruiting has been hampered by pay issues stemming from the lack of a collective-bargaining agreement with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild since 2014.
Negotiations are continuing over wages and reforms, amid signs that a deal might be close.