Seattle’s chief of police, Carmen Best, has announced her resignation on the same day that the city council voted to slash the police budget and lay off officers.
Chief Best became the city’s first black police chief in 2018, leading a 1,400-member force. The US military veteran joined the Seattle Police Department in 1992.
But the city council voted to slash the police annual operating budget and the cuts are expected to lead to the loss of about 100 police officers. The new budget also slashes the police chief’s salary. The measure was approved in a 7-1 vote.
Seattle City Council President M Lorena González said it was necessary to re-balance the police budget.
Due to a loss of government tax funds caused by the economic downturn, and also the demands of Black Lives Matter protests that have called for defunding the police and instead using the money to bolster social services.
The Downtown Seattle Association condemned the cuts, saying: “In defunding SPD, the council moved with speed and pettiness rather than with precision and thoughtfulness. Decisions critical to public safety require stating the desired results and working with the community to figure out how to get there. This Council focused largely on an abstract pledge and not a concrete plan.”
The group has previously been among the most vocal critics of the city’s autonomous zone, a six-block area where protesters kept city police from entering.
The so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone was set up amid nationwide protests against racism and police brutality since the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The autonomous zone was finally dismantled by police after several shootings inside the occupied area resulted in several deaths.
Chief Best wrote in a resignation letter to her colleagues, “I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times. You truly are the best police department in the country, and please trust me when I say, the vast majority of people in Seattle support you and appreciate you.”
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