‘You were a true leader!’ Meet the SPD recruit behind the letter Chief Best read through tears

SEATTLE — When Seattle police officer recruit Marcus Jones heard Chief Carmen Best suddenly announce her retirement because of actions by the City Council, he said he was heartbroken to see his role model stepping down. Even though he's still training in the academy, he was compelled to write encouraging words to her.

"I'm going to read an email that I got last night," Best said. "It's the only email that brought tears to my eyes."

>>‘When it’s time, it’s time’: Chief Carmen Best announces retirement from SPD

"I didn't even think she was going to read it," Jones said. When Best read the email through tears during her announcement on live TV, Jones said his phone was inundated with calls and texts while he was participating in police training drills.

"Thank you for what you've done personally for me and for this department," Jones wrote. "I've finally been hired after applying for five years, and I was ecstatic that it was under your command."

"I got real emotional," Jones said. "I've wanted to be an officer since I was seven. I can literally recall the moment, the first time I ever said I want to be a police officer. I think that's just a testament of the kind of woman that Chief Best is, and the kind of leader that she is, she feels deeply for the people that are working here."

But the reason Chief Best read the email was because she said Jones—who is slated to graduate from the academy and become a sworn officer in December--could be among the first job cuts in the defunding plan voted by the Seattle City Council.

"I remember meeting him," Best said. "His name is Marcus Jones. He was doing temperature checks in the building, and we shook hands, and we talked. A great young man! Tall, stout wonderful African-American man. And he is one of the people that will probably not keep a job here. And that for me--I'm done. Can't do it," she said.

While trying to get hired by SPD for five years, the US Coast Guard veteran worked in the Public Defender's Association on programs like REACH and LEAD, providing social work and community support alternatives for people arrested for low-level crimes, and who might otherwise go to jail.

Chief Best said the City Council once vowed to hire more officers, like Jones.

"The council gave us $1.6 million dollars to make sure that we hired the best and brightest and the most diverse," she said. "And we brought them on, and less than a year later, we're going to just turn them all away."

Jones said the possibility of being cut from the department is real. "It's not easy knowing that I worked so hard to get here for five years to know that it could all be taken away in just a few short months," he said, adding that he would reapply to become an officer in Seattle again.

Jones also said he's felt the pain of Black Lives Matter protesters demanding police reform, and an end to systemic racism.

"All I can do is help try and change that image, as best I can," he said. "That's what me and my classmates intend to do."

Jones said he's inspired by the chief to be a role model in a new era of police work.

“If I’m going to be a role model and I’m going to be the best role model I can be, I would hope that the people that chose to follow me or not follow me can see how hard that I’m working to make a difference in my community, but also feel compelled to want to follow me.”