Police chief candidate Best interviewed by community commission

SEATTLE -- Interim Police Chief Carmen Best usually talks about policies, but at a meeting on Wednesday it got personal.

“My work ethic has never been in question. I am the oldest of four children, so if that means anything,” Best said.

What was happening in the Community Police Commission meeting sounded like a job interview.

“I feel like I’ve worked my whole career to be right here where we are right now,” Best said.

Earlier, the mayor’s office got an earful from community members angry that Best was excluded as one of the top three finalists for Seattle’s police chief announced in May. But over the weekend Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a surprising reversal, saying Best was inserted into the race.

“People have dropped out regularly from the police searches. If you look at it nationally, that happens all the time,” Durkan said.

On Monday, Durkan announced that she hired that person who dropped out of the race for Seattle police chief, former Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay, and he will now play a different role for the Seattle Police Department.

That departure left a slot open for Best to be a finalist.

“Look, I am really honored to be one of the top 3 finalists,” Best said.

The diverse group of people who make up the CPC are charged with holding SPD accountable.

The CPC was created in 2012 under a consent decree between Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice to help with police reform.

On Wednesday, the group said they are not endorsing any candidate.

“What we are trying to find out is how do people feel about the candidates. Do they trust them? Is there a way they see Seattle working with a particular candidate?" CPC member Enrique Gonzalez said.

The CPC has traveled to outside cities to talk to community members about the other two candidates.

They’ve been to Austin, Texas, to learn more about Ely Reyes, the assistant police chief in Austin. They also traveled to Minneapolis, where Eddie Frizzell is an inspector in that city’s police department.

The CPS says its main goal is to learn a lot about each candidate and share their findings with the public, mayor and City Council.

“Whether or not that has any bearing on the decision, that’s hard to say. What we do hope is that it’s some information the community can use to better inform themselves,” Gonzalez said.

But something many already know is that Best is the only internal candidate with more than two decades of experience, something she tried to use to her advantage in the meeting Wednesday.

“Somebody internal really knows, can see the culture shift, can know when the culture has shifted. How are you going to know if you don’t know the players, what has really happened, where you were, how far you’ve come?" Best asked.

The interview lasted about 30 minutes and the members questioned Best on various topics, including immigration, the homeless crisis and bias policing.

CPC interviewed Reyes and Frizzell for the same amount of time in June.

There is no timeline on when the mayor will make her pick.