SPD Chief wants officers to return to East Precinct ‘as soon as possible;' but has no timeline

On Friday, protesters in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood continue to hold their ground in the autonomous zone created four days ago when police moved out of the East Precinct.

The move was made after it became the site of an ongoing standoff between police and protesters that often escalated into violence.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told officers in a video posted to the department’s YouTube page Thursday morning that it wasn’t her decision to leave the precinct and the area.

Since police left Monday, people have been gathering around the precinct as early as 9:30 a.m. when KIRO 7 reporter Ranji Sinha took a tour of the East Precinct with Best Thursday. Best said there’s damage from people breaking in.

The area -- now known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone - consists of a six-block area near Cal Anderson Park.

Now that police have left the precinct, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said response times to calls have tripled.

KIRO 7's Michelle Millman spoke with Best Friday morning about the ongoing protests and when police might return to the precinct there.

Best said she wanted officers to return to the precinct as soon as possible so they can respond to 9-1-1 calls more quickly.

But at times, crowds in the zone have been enormous. The leaders of the movement said they are not preventing police from working there, but until their demands are met, the zone will be occupied.

When asked how long the department can sustain not being in the precinct, Best said there have been discussions but there’s no timeline for officers to return.

“We’ve certainly been in conversation about what we might do and what the alternatives are. Ideally, we just need to get back into the building. People are looking for a plan, but we want to make sure we modulate anything that we’re doing. We don’t want to exacerbate or intensify or incite problems that are going to lead to harm to the officers or the people who are standing by. We know that several are armed. We want to make sure that we are being very thoughtful about how we respond,” said Best.

City leaders say they're talking to people in the zone, but Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan gave no indication the city or the police department is urging the group to move or reopen occupied streets.

Watch the full interview with Best below.