In a long statement and series of Twitter messages Thursday night, a Seattle councilwoman tore into the city’s soon-to-depart police Chief Carmen Best, claiming it was “no accident” that “right-wing” figures such as President Trump and Attorney General William Barr were sorry that Best planned to step down.
“They recognize the service [Best] has provided the capitalist class in pushing back against the Black Lives Matter movement at the height of its power,” socialist Councilwoman Kshama Sawant wrote, according to Seattle’s KIRO-TV.
Best, who has been Seattle’s police chief since August 2018, revealed in an email Monday that she planned to retire, effective Sept. 2. Her announcement came after the Seattle City Council voted to slash the police department budget, including Best’s own salary.
“I hate to see her go,” Sawant quoted Trump as saying about Best. The president made the remark at a news briefing Tuesday, according to a White House transcript.
“In the face of mob violence, she drew the line in the sand,” Sawant quoted Barr as saying about the departing chief. Barr also made the comment Tuesday, according to the Justice Department website.
The council’s Monday action came as backers of the “Defund the police” movement across the U.S. seek to reduce or even eliminate funding for the nation’s police departments, pointing to what they say is a history of police mistreatment of African-Americans and other minority groups.
In her statement Thursday, Sawant claimed the council’s cut of $3 million from the city’s police budget – expected to result in the loss of 100 officers through layoffs and attrition – represented a 2% reduction but was a far cry from the 50% slash that some Democrats on the council had promised protesters weeks earlier.
But that 2% cut “was too much for Best,” Sawant wrote.
“Best also cried foul at the City Council curbing bloated police executive pay to allow the funds to instead be used for Black and Brown community needs, saying the 7 percent cut to her over quarter-of-a-million-dollar ($294,000) salary, ‘felt vindictive and punitive,’” Sawant wrote.
Before the proposed cut, Best’s salary was 45% above the national average for police chiefs while nine of the city’s top police executives were paid higher salaries than all 50 U.S. governors, Sawant claimed, according to KIRO.
‘Earthquake in American politics’
The councilwoman claimed that Best and other police chiefs around the U.S. have stepped down in recent weeks because the Black Lives Matter movement “has been nothing short of an earthquake in American politics, exposing the endemic racism and police violence of U.S. capitalism and putting mayors, police chiefs and political establishments across the country on the defensive.”
Sawant, 46, is a native of India and former software engineer who has served on Seattle’s city council since 2014, representing the Socialist Alternative party.
In early July, Sawant called for the overthrow of capitalism, including the seizure of Fortune 500 companies.
On Tuesday, Best described the council’s budget cut as a betrayal of the city’s police department, which had been working to emerge from federal oversight after the U.S. Justice Department in 2012 detected a pattern of unconstitutional use of force.
“The council gave us $1.6 million to make sure we hire the best and the brightest and the most diverse and brought them on,” Best said Tuesday. “And less than a year later, we’re going to just turn them all away. It feels very duplicitous. I have my convictions. I cannot do that.”
Seattle has been among the top cities for frequent protests and rioting since the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
In late July, Best lashed out against rioters after an explosive device left an eight-inch hole in a wall of a city police precinct building.
“What we saw today was not peaceful,” Best said at the time, according to the Seattle Times. “The rioters had no regard for the public’s safety, for officers’ safety or for the businesses and property that they destroyed.”