The Seattle Police Department has a long and storied history of anti-Black violence. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, this violence did not relent under Police Chief Carmen Best. Racism is built into the very structure of policing. The impossible task of rooting out anti-Black racism from the Seattle Police Department was always too large for any one person.
Chief Best’s public resignation comes soon after the Seattle City Council’s first votes towards divesting from SPD and investing in a new paradigm that values all Black lives. Our goal has never been to oust Chief Best. Rather, we have organized to draw attention to the limits and false promises of individualized reforms for ending police violence. We know that only deep structural change – not the resignation and replacement of any single person – will protect Black lives and stop racist policing. This fight is about rethinking how we achieve public safety in this city for Black communities, and acknowledging that continuing to pour money into policing will not get us there.
Our movement will remain centered on the lived experiences and conditions of Black communities. Accordingly, while Black representation in leadership positions is critical and necessary, it must be meaningfully connected to improving the lived experiences and conditions of the Black community.
We know that anti-racism is not about diversifying the police and lifting up Black women or anyone else to head SPD. We celebrate the movement in defense of Black lives and we recommit to the work ahead to generate safety for all people in Seattle. The Seattle Police Department – and our city’s entire approach to achieving real public safety – requires wholesale structural change. Fortunately, there is a community-driven process under way to address this very issue. We encourage the Mayor and Council to endorse the overwhelmingly-supported BIPOC-led community process towards true public safety for all Seattle residents.