Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best suggested that the media wasn’t honest about the “mostly peaceful protests” in Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Organized Protest” (CHOP zone), also briefly called the not-so-cool cool-sounding CHAZ, (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone).
Best, who resigned after Seattle’s city council cut $3 million from the Seattle Police Dept. budget, made the following comments on Jerry Radcliffe’s “Reducing Crime” podcast.
“I would read stories about the peaceful protests. I go, ‘Well, part of it was peaceful.’ But I was standing 20 feet away from a hail of rocks. I was looking right at them hail down, feet from me. I was behind a telephone pole,” Best said.
Best went on to say that she was confused when reading about the interactions with rioters in the media because reporters claimed the violence was a peaceful protest and that protesters were treated unfairly and harshly by police who threw tear gas and used pepper spray on them. Best said that they did use such tactics, but that their use “wasn’t arbitrary.”
“But certainly, we were trying to look as non-threatening as possible, maybe not have the riot shields up. But once we know we’re going to be getting rocks and bottles thrown at us, I have a responsibility as a chief to make sure people have protecting gear. We can’t just leave them out there with soft hat and rocks are being thrown and whatever,” she said.
Chief Best talked about how she had to deal with a violent, armed, and seemingly leaderless CHOP zone that the press said was “mostly peaceful” in a time the Seattle mayor ironically referred to as the “Summer of Love.”
“But I’m telling you, the whole time, the officers and the people who were responding to that area knew it was a problem. And we had been saying, ‘Look, our response times are up. We’ve had rapes. We had robberies. We had assaults.” And I remember giving a press conference at some time along the way and holding up the reports, because every time I said something, people would say we were just making it up. I go, ‘No, I have police reports of real victims that you can look at to verify these things are happening.”
“I got to tell you, though, we were pretty clear. I just thought it was terrible and that we had a real problem and we need to get on this and figure this out.
Best resigned after the city council made the following cuts to the Seattle Police Department:
- Cut 32 officers from patrol – $533,000
- Reduced specialized units, including officers assigned to mounted unit, school resource officers, homeland security, harbor patrol, SWAT team – $250,000
- Removed officers from Navigation Team, ensuring homeless neighbors are not retraumatized by armed patrol officers – $216,000
- Reduced staff budget through recognizing expected attrition – $500,000
- Reduced administrative costs, including salaries, community outreach, public affairs
- Cut $56,000 from training and travel expenses
- Cut recruitment and retention – $800,000
- Transferred victim advocates from SPD to Human Services Department – $377,000 impact
- Removed two sworn officer positions from the 911 Emergency Call Center
Chief Best joked on the podcast that she didn’t do every police job in Seattle before she retired but she did most, including working in “gangs, narcotics, robbery, chief of investigations, deputy chief, chief of police,” and even had fun posing as a prostitute decoy. “It was hilarious.”
Chief Best, the first black female chief of Seattle, is just one of many chiefs to resign as a result of last year’s rioting after the death of George Floyd.