Despite adding Best to police chief candidate list, mayor says final choice still not made

SEATTLE -- Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday denied any speculation that Carmen Best is Seattle’s next police chief.

This comes after a surprising reversal over the weekend to include Best, the interim police chief, as one of the three finalists for the position.

In May the Mayor’s Office got an earful from many in the public angry that Best was excluded as one of the three finalists. The selection committee that helped pick the candidates was upset over what ended up happening. Also the police union said they were disappointed the city was going to bring in someone from outside Seattle to lead the force.

Now more than a month after the backlash, the mayor announced a surprising reversal. Durkan was asked if public outcry played a role in this decision. she didn’t say yes or no to that question. But she did say that Best is now back in the running after former Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay took his name off the list.

The mayor says she has agreed to hire McLay in a different role at the Seattle Police Department.

“People have dropped out regularly from the police searches. If you look at it nationally, that happens on a regular basis. We were prepared that might happen and in talking to Chief McLay and when we spoke to him it was clear his passion was in reform and that’s what where he can have the best value for the city of Seattle, it will be great to have his expertise. I think what people should read into it is that we will do everything we can to get the best chief possible,” Durkan said.

The mayor says McLay’s title will have to be worked out but it will be a position to help with police reform. It’s a subject very important to Seattle. SPD has been under a consent decree for years now over bias policing and excessive force. In January a judge ruled that SPD had made great strides and was in substantial compliance with the decree. That same judge having a status hearing on Monday over the matter with many in attendance including Durkan.

Durkan says progress in this area is crucial and it will also play a part in who she picks as the next police chief. The union on Monday said they hope Durkan will go with Best over the other two candidates.

The other candidates are Eddie Frizzell, an inspector with the Minneapolis Police Department, and Ely Reyes, the assistant chief of the Austin Police Department.

“I don’t know why at this critical time in public safety in Seattle, where we have a lot of issues we need to be dealt with, to the homeless issue, to the quality of life, crime every day on the street, we don’t need someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. I am not saying they don’t is what they are doing, I am just saying that we need them to hit the ground running,” Seattle Police Officers Guild Vice President Rich O’Neill said.

Durkan says there is no timeline of when she will make a final decision. She will be interviewing candidates this week and says there is still extensive research to be done.