Mayor Jenny Durkan’s police chief search committee has chosen three finalists for the role.
They are former Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McClay, Austin Assistant Chief Ely Reyes and Minneapolis police inspector Eddie Frizell.
Before working in Pittsburgh, McClay spent 29 years as a Madison police officer. He spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Committee convention. Reyes has been in his Austin position for 22 years and served in the U.S. Army for six years. Alongside 26 years in his Minneapolis job, Frizell holds the rank of Colonel in the Minnesota Army National Guard and has deployed to Iraq.
Durkan will choose between the three finalists. She wants to make an appointment by the end of June, according to former mayor Tim Burgess, one of the search committee's co-chairs.
Acting Police Chief Carmen Best, who took over when former Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole stepped down at the end of 2017, didn't make the cut. Best, Seattle's first black woman to serve as police chief, was on a list of five semi-finalists, the Seattle Times reported.
Durkan’s 25-member search committee, led by four co-chairs, conducted a nationwide search for candidates to head the Seattle Police Department, which counts among its ranks roughly 1,400 sworn officers. The committee accepted applications from 62 candidates. The committee interviewed six of them, according to Burgess. The search committee selected five semifinalists earlier this week.
Durkan convened a group of five “assessors,” five of whom are on her staff, to examine the five candidates and pick three finalists, the Seattle Times reported.
The Community Police Commission, a civilian watchdog group, today criticized Durkan for tapping “insiders” to narrow the candidate pool from five to three, pointing out that previous mayors have had their selection committees choose finalists.
Whoever Durkan selects to serve as police chief after conducting interviews and site visits will be responsible for guiding the department through the second phase of SPD's federal consent decree over use-of-force and biased-based policing. A judge in January found the department to be in "full and effective compliance" with the decree, kicking off a two year-monitoring period where the department will be required to sustain reforms its worked to achieve for more than five years.
Police reform leaders expressed disappointment that Chief Best was not among the three finalists.
"I'm really disappointed. Obviously my office and I will work in good faith with whoever is selected to run the department," said Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association. "But community experts are almost completely united behind Chief Best. I think it's a major lost opportunity to cement community confidence and inspire leaders within the department."
Disappointment that Best was not selected could also be heard during an online livestream of the press conference.
"Poor job. You guys did a poor job. Anybody but a black woman," said Rev. Harriet Walden, a co-chair of the CPC, as the press conference came to an end.
Burgess told reports that the search committee favored an outsider over an insider, noting that O'Toole came to Seattle after serving as police commissioner in Boston.
"It was less a decision about Carmen Best and more a decision about the institution of the police department," Burgess said.