Seattle, WA – Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she has no regrets about publicizing her concerns regarding the city council’s lack of support for the local police force.
Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers have been resigning in droves, and many of the officers who have left said that attitudes and policies adopted by the council were what caused them to leave, KCPQ reported.
“I’m their biggest champion, and I will always be their biggest champion because I know how tough the work is,” Chief Best said during a recent speech at the U.S. Coast Guard base in Seattle.
Chief Best spoke out about city leaders’ lack of support for law enforcement during an interview in July, KCPQ reported.
“We need them to stand up for the work that the officers…have been doing in this organization,” she said at the time. “We’re losing good people, and we know its because they feel like they aren’t supported by public officials.”
Dozens of exit interviews from officers who have left SPD showed the devastating affect that the lack of support has had on their morale.
“Criminals are more empowered than people that protect the city,” one officer wrote.
Another officer blamed “city politics and biased media” for their decision to leave the department.
“It is extremely frustrating to constantly hear nothing but attacks and second-guessing from Seattle council members who frequently make accusations based on their own biases and with no regard to fact,” another officer said during the exit interview.
But Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez blew off the content of the interviews, and said they only were a reflection of a beliefs of “a very small percentage” of the department.
“Approximately 72 if I remember correctly,” Gonzalez told reporters dismissively.
“Seventy-two is a lot of people,” Chief Best later told KCPQ. “I mean, we have a department with 1360-some members. I hope we never have to look at 1300 exit interviews, or we wouldn’t have a police department, right?”
“So, 72 is a significant number of people leaving our organization,” the chief reiterated. “So far this year, 30 of them have resigned to go work at other places.”
Chief Best told KCPQ that her comments about the lack of support for officers was directed at the entire city council.
“I don’t know how you can say you support public safety – support safety in this city – and not recognize that you have a responsibility to help the men and women of this department want to stay here and work,” she argued.
Chief Best said that she hopes city leaders and citizens will take a step back and try to look at the situation from the officers’ perspectives.
“I think people need to recognize how very difficult this work is,” she told KCPQ. “They are on the front lines of all of this that’s happening in the city, and its not an easy job.”
“And, by the way, they’re wearing a bullet-proof vest,” she added, emphasizing the dangers officers face. “This isn’t an easy job for anybody, and we should be supporting them.”
Some critics have alleged that the SPD’s exodus is due to officers not wanting to deal with the city’s additional reviews and their focus on officer accountability during an era of police reform measures.
Chief Best said that such accusations are not supported by the information contained in the exit interviews.
“There’s no reason for them to sugarcoat anything they’re saying,” she noted. “They’ve already resigned!”
Chief Best said she has no regrets about speaking out against the city council’s treatment of the police force, and that she was simply speaking the truth about the reasons why officers said they have chosen to leave the SPD.
“Look, it needed to be done,” she told KCPQ. “Any leader that’s any kind of leader is going to step for the men and women of their organization who are working really hard every single day.”