Young Black activists say time for change is now

SEATTLE — In their fight for fundamental change, young, Black activists say they "honor" the career of retiring Seattle police Chief Carmen Best. But they also believe she was part of the racist system.

Activists are speaking out three days after Best announced she will retire.

Best made her decision after the City Council cut $3 million from the Seattle Police Department's budget.

The message is that the time for changing policing in Seattle is now.

King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle is demanding that the mayor include them in creating that change.

"That is a huge accomplishment, and it is historic as the first Black woman," said Emijah Smith of Vision of Hope. "I just want to say I honor you."

That is the message to Best days after an emotional announcement Tuesday that she is calling it quits after just two years as Seattle's top cop.

“I’m sad to leave in some ways, but you know when it’s time,” Best said, “it’s time.”

The activist, one of several participating in this Zoom news conference, expressed her gratitude for Best's groundbreaking career.

"So in honoring you, this is not about you, cause I honor you," said Smith. "This is about our Black communities and our Indigenous communities — our communities of color who deserve true public safety."

The backlash after Best's sudden retirement was swift.

And it came largely from those who fought to get Best the job like longtime police accountability activist Rev. Harriett Walden.

"This is an anti-Blackness issue at the highest level," said Walden.

But these activists say the cuts to the SPD budget are just the start of building a safer future for Seattle's communities of Black, Indigenous and other people of color.

"This is not a new movement," said Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180 program. "We are all on a journey toward justice that our ancestors began almost over 400 years ago when we were stolen and brought here in chains."

"And we are still far from the 50% cuts and reinvestments that we are demanding," said Nikkita Oliver, a lawyer and activist. "And this is a long-overdue process. This is a long-overdue process of reckoning with our city and reversing the trend of an unquestionably growing police budget."

And they say they need to be at the table deciding what to do with the $100 million Mayor Jenny Durkan is promising to communities of color to allow those who are most in danger to decide what is best.

KIRO 7 reached out to the mayor but hasn’t heard back.