New Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told supporters on Tuesday that the Northwest African American Museum was where she wanted to be sworn in if selected.
“The Northwest African American Museum reminds us of those who have gone before us and paved the way for someone like me,” said Best, Seattle’s first African American woman to lead the police department’s in its 149 year history.
“We are still writing history together,” Best said.
Best, who has served for 26 years in the Seattle Police Department, was sworn as Seattle’s new police chief with three swearing ceremonies throughout the day Tuesday. The last ceremony and a reception were hosted at the Northwest African American Museum.
Best, who had been Deputy Chief, was serving as interim chief since January, after the resignation of Kathleen O’Toole.
There was a community outcry when Best originally did not make it to the top three finalists.
“We did what we had to do, and she was by far the most qualified person on the list,” Eddie Rye Jr. member of Washington State Civil Rights Coalition, told The Seattle Globalist. “We have to stand up for justice.”
Rye said Best was the first candidate that every community in Seattle agreed on.
“I think we will have a good working relationship with her,” Rye said.
After the outcry, Best was included for consideration when one of the other finalists dropped out.
Early last week, Seattle City Council unanimously confirmed Best as police chief.
“Your leadership is going to be historic for our city in so many ways,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Tuesday, addressing Best in the audience. “We as a city want to support you now.”
Best’s selection is groundbreaking and historic, said LaNesha DeBardelaben Northwest African American Museum executive director.
“Seattle has an opportunity to set a model that the rest of the nation can follow and emulate,” Debardelaben said. “I believe this is the beginning of great things to come and I am humbled that it took place [at the NAAM].”
Henrietta Price, who has been active in the community since the civil rights movement, said having Best as chief will engage the African American community.
“Those who don’t think they should go to meetings that involve the police, they will get up and go,” Price said.
“I hope to see her continue to meet with the community and inspire other young [African Americans] to do what they want,” Price said. “Right now they don’t think they have a chance but they do.”
Best also takes over a police department that has been challenged to make reforms, after a 2012 federal order to reduce bias in its policing and unnecessary use-of-force.
Best told the crowd that the police department has been making progress.
“We have persevered under intense scrutiny, setting national standard in modern-day policing and we are a shining example,” Best said. “This is only the beginning, together we are going to keep raising the bar.”
Best told the crowd the Seattle Police Department needs to build that trust with its communities.
“It should matter to everyone if someone doesn’t trust the police because of bad interactions or if someone doesn’t feel safe walking down the street because of what they look like,” Best said.
“Today is not just about history of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest, we are all one community, what happens to one of us happens to all of us,” Best said.