Chief Carmen Best

Former Chief of Police in Seattle, WA
Carmen Best
  • 1st African American woman to hold the top policing job in Seattle, Washington
  • In 2019, received the "Vision from the Mountaintop” award from Urban Impact for her commitment to justice and community
  • Fostered record-breaking women and diversity hiring and recruitment at the Seattle Police Department
  • Shares experience-based insights on diversity, inclusion, and leadership lessons learned guiding a police department during times of crisis

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The first African-American woman to hold the top policing job in Seattle, Washington, Chief Carmen Best (Ret.) served with the Seattle Police Department for 28 years. In 2018, Best was promoted to Chief of Police, a job she called “a dream of a lifetime,” managing approximately 2,000 sworn and civilian employees. Best quickly began efforts to diversify the police force, which had long been less diverse than the city, recruiting more than 40 new officers of color.

As communities throughout America grapple with how to better serve and protect their citizens while addressing racism and revamping policing procedures, Chief Best was seen as a champion and leader of reforms. She regularly met with community leaders and achieved a decreased major crime rate in 2019. In the same year, Chief Best received the “Vision from the Mountaintop” award from Urban Impact for her commitment to justice and community. Among her many accomplishments as Chief of Police was her creation of the Collaborative Police Bureau, which encourages community partnerships; creating the first in the nation first-responder COVID-19 onsite testing; and record-breaking women and diversity hiring and recruitment. In August of 2020, she announced her resignation as a result of the City Council’s decision to downsize the department by almost 100 officers. At Best’s retirement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Dunkin said, “We had the chief that not only believes in the importance of reimagining policing, she was the person, and probably still will be the person, that helps lead the way for our nation.”

Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Chief Best speaks on diversity, inclusion, and leadership lessons learned guiding a police department during times of crisis. “In many ways, I represent what the future can hold, so I’m very proud of that,” said Best, “the challenge of being a police chief in America is great no matter who you are.”

A U.S. Army veteran and graduate of Western Illinois University and Northeastern University, Chief Best furthered her education completing the Senior Management Institute for Police, the FBI National Executive Institute (NEI), the FBI National Academy, the Criminal Justice Executive Leadership Academy, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association Police Executive Leadership Institute. Prior to becoming Chief of Police, she served as Deputy Chief, overseeing the Patrol Operations, Investigations, and Special Operations Bureaus, as well as the Community Outreach section.

Chief Best has been recognized with dozens of awards for her contributions to community engagement, public safety, gender equity, diversity, and inclusion. Most notable, she received the “Newsmaker of the Year” award from the Seattle Black Press and was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, dedicated to recognizing individuals who selflessly contribute to society and uphold the ideals of America. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on public safety announcements “Safe in the Sound.”

After nearly 30 years of service, Chief Best is currently an NBC News and MSNBC contributor and a law enforcement analyst for NBC’s Seattle affiliate KING 5. She serves on the Leadership Council Chair for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Seattle and is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the National Latino Police Officers Association (NLPOA). Additionally, Chief Best is a board member for United Way of King County, a member of the St. Jude Advisory Council for Seattle, Vice-Chair of Exploring for the Learning for Life National Executive Board and serves on the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee and the Seattle University Criminal Justice Advisory Committee. She recently served as the Chair of the Human and Civil Rights Committee (HCRC) for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the IACP Board of Directors, and co-chair of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) – all groups she remains affiliated with.

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Diversity and Inclusion. As the first African-American Chief of Police at the Seattle Police Department, Carmen Best began her position at Seattle’s top policing job by quickly recruiting more than 40 officers of color – recognizing the need to fix the problem that the police force was significantly less diverse than the demographic makeup of the city. In this talk, she shares her lessons-learned on how to create a more diverse workforce, as well as demonstrates to audiences the importance of including multiple viewpoints and backgrounds at any organization. And according to Chief West, “In many ways, I represent what the future can hold, so I’m very proud of that.”

Leadership Lessons-Learned: Leading Through Crisis, Conflict, and Challenging Times. For nearly 30 years, Chief Best was a champion and leader of reforms, guiding the Seattle police department through times of uncertainty and crisis. When she first took her role as Chief of Police in 2018, she immediately got to work diversifying the force and regularly meeting with community leaders, and by 2019 achieved a decreased major crime rate. Chief Best demonstrated her leadership principles through the end of her tenure in 2020, resigning when the City Council’s decisions did not align with her values. At Best’s retirement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Dunkin said, “We had the chief that not only believes in the importance of reimagining policing, she was the person, and probably still will be the person, that helps lead the way for our nation.” In this presentation, Best shares her experience leading the force through these challenging and often polarizing times, as well as her proven strategies for effective, values-based leadership, including fostering an engaging environment of community, collaboration, trust, and diverse perspectives.

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