Black clergy members say they support Seattle Police Chief in leading police reform

SEATTLE – Black clergy members gathered at Goodwill Baptist Church on Sunday to support Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

“If there’s anybody that can help us through the reconstruction and reconciliation of the Seattle Police Department and be a model for the rest of the country, Chief Best is our leader, and we believe that God has equipped her,” said Rev. Kenneth Ransfer of the Greater Mt. Baker Baptist Church.

Chief Best said she was “honored” and “felt appreciated” at the end of the program.

“Everyone has made it clear, and we know that the police service needs to be fair, equitable and just for everyone, and I can tell you, no one dislikes the bad officers more than the good officers,” said Chief Best.

Community activist Andre Taylor, CEO and founder of Not This Time, said he considers Chief Best a friend. He also said just because you are friends with someone doesn’t mean you agree with them all the time.

“Put yourself in those shoes, when you have to figure out how to stop somebody from burning cars and then going into businesses and looting businesses, and then they go back into ‘peaceful protest,’" said Taylor to the room. “How and what would you do?”

Other members said Chief Best is not the one to blame for the situation at East Precinct, which was taken over last week by protesters who have since changed the name of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) to Capitol Hill Organized Protest. They blame Mayor Jenny Durkan instead.

“I’m disgusted with it,” said Victoria Beach, SPD chair of the African American Community Advisory Council. “It’s no longer about George Floyd or the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Beach said the East Precinct was built years ago for the black community to shorten officer response times to calls.

“That’s our precinct, you know, so we plan on taking it back,” said Beach.

Bishop Gary Tyson of Goodwill Baptist Church said this gathering was the beginning of a series of conversations with the black clergy and Chief Best.

The pastors prayed for the City of Seattle, Chief Best and the protesters. At the end of the event, each one of them took a knee for a moment of silence. The event ended with a few shouts of “No Justice, No Peace.”

Chukundi Salisbury is a Seattle resident and attended to show his support to the chief.

“You know the movement is changing every day, and I respect the CHAZ movement,” said Salisbury. “I respect that and what they’re doing, but at the end of the day, I think everyday African Americans are not necessarily being spoken to and spoken up for. We’re spoken to, but not with, and so what does that mean with the CHAZ where you had African-American women who wanted to speak and were booed off the stage? So is it really about inclusion and allowing everyone to speak?”

The City of Seattle said in response to a series of demands from organizers and community groups, the Seattle Police Department is making changes that include: