Seattle Police Chief Announces Retirement As City Council Cuts Department Budget

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, center, speaks as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, and Deputy Police Chief Adrian Diaz, right, look on during a news conference on Aug. 11, 2020, in Seattle.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, center, speaks as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, and Deputy Police Chief Adrian Diaz, right, look on during a news conference on Aug. 11, 2020, in Seattle. AP Photo

 

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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | A federal review finds racist practices at an Alabama public housing authority … Oregon legislature cuts state budget in one-day session … California vows to replace archaic technology that led to Covid undercounts.

After the Seattle City Council voted to cut $4 million from the city’s police department on Monday night, Police Chief Carmen Best announced her retirement. A veteran of the Seattle force, Best was the first Black woman to lead the department. Among the cuts to the department’s budget of $400 million was the elimination of about 100 jobs, as well as a reduction in pay for command staff, which includes the police chief. Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González said that the reduced police budget will allow the city to “fund service providers addressing the more complex issues of housing, substance use disorder, youth violence prevention, affordable healthcare, and more.” Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan had urged the council to hold off on cuts. Durkan said she wished Best was staying, but understood her decision. At a news conference on Tuesday, Best said she couldn’t bring herself to lay off promising new recruits who would be targeted by the job cuts and said the city council hadn’t consulted with her on their plans. Best herself had been the target of recent demonstrations, with protesters marching on her home and criticizing her authorization of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police. But Best said her decision wasn’t about protests. “This is not about the money and certainly isn’t about the demonstrators,” Best said. “Be real. I have a thicker skin than that. It really is about the overwhelming lack of respect for the officers, the men and women who work so hard day in and day out.” Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County called Best leaving the department “a loss” and said it won’t help with their push for police accountability. “We demand the Seattle City Council stop prioritizing performative action that solely suggests the appearance of change. We demand transparency and accountability for the series of actions and inactions that led to Chief Best’s resignation. And we demand a successor that serves Black Lives,” the group said in a statement. But at a news conference Tuesday, Durkan said it doesn’t make sense to move ahead with a permanent replacement while so much is in flux about the department’s future.  [Seattle Times; CNN; KUOW; KIRO]

RACIST HOUSING | A federal study found that an Alabama public housing authority put white residents in buildings with scenic river views while segregating Black residents in less desirable buildings. [Associated Press]

SPECIAL SESSION | During a one-day marathon special session, the Oregon state legislature cut the state budget by $362 million in general fund dollars. Economists predict the state will collect $1.2 billion less in tax revenue than was expected by mid-2021. "I'd like to thank legislative leadership, and every member of the Legislature, for carrying out the serious work of the second special session I have called during this pandemic," Gov. Kate Brown said. Republicans complained not enough time was allotted to get public input on decisions. [Statesman Journal]

UNEMPLOYMENT | The Hawaii state director of labor and industrial relations resigned this week, following months on leave. Gov. David Ige had ordered Scott Murakami, the head of the agency that distributes unemployment benefits in the state, to take time off in June, saying Murakami “was under tremendous pressure.” [Hawaii News Now; Civil Beat]

OLD TECH | Archaic technology that powers a California public health database is responsible for the state putting out incorrect numbers that undercounted the number of coronavirus cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. Replacing the technology, along with antiquated unemployment and driver’s license systems, is a top priority, he added.[Los Angeles Times]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.

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