Public-defense leader Lisa Daugaard, a longtime criminal-justice reform advocate, explains why community activists and the police union are happy about Mayor Jenny Durkan's police-chief choice.

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The path to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s selection of Carmen Best to be the next chief of police in Seattle did not follow a straight line.

Durkan’s selection process first spotlighted Best as one the five top choices, but then excluded her from the list of three finalists. That drew a storm of criticism from local criminal-justice reform advocates and the police union, in a rare showing of solidarity.

This week, Durkan decided to select Best – a 26 year veteran of the force – as her pick for SPD chief, after all.

In Episode 85 of The Overcast, the Seattle Times politics and news podcast, longtime police-reform advocate Lisa Daugaard joins reporters Jim Brunner and Daniel Beekman to discuss the selection process, and what Best’s leadership means for policing in Seattle.

Daugaard says Best is uniquely positioned to lead the department in an area where the very definition of what it means to be an effective police force is changing. SPD is under competing pressure to enforce the law while avoiding overuse of force or criminalizing poverty and homelessness.

“She is an unusual blend of somebody who is taken seriously as a real cop by other officers, and at the same time has forged very authentic relationship with a very diverse array of community leaders,” says Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association. “If there are other people who have that dual legitimacy, I can’t think of who they are.”

If confirmed by the Seattle City Council, Best would become the first African American woman to lead the Seattle police. She has been serving as interim chief since Jan. 1.

In the podcast, Daugaard, a former co-chair of the Seattle Community Police Commission, breaks down the key challenges facing SPD and Best as they balance citizen demands for enforcing the law with efforts to halt onerous crackdowns on poor and homeless people.

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