Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan dismissed suggestions she will nominate current interim Chief Carmen Best after another candidate dropped out of the race.
"There is an old saying in Washington DC that those who know aren't talking and those who are talking don't know," said Durkan on Monday, after former Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay dropped out of consideration.
McLay had been one of three finalists for the top job and scheduled for interviews this week. But Durkan told reporters that her early discussions with McLay showed he had an intense interest in reform, and they agree that there may be a different role for him in Seattle in the future. Durkan was coy on what exactly that position would be.
"We talked in terms about what things he could do to offer here - we are going to have conversations separate and apart from the chief search, looking at a range of things. I want to talk to the monitor, police department, and community activists to get the right role, I think he's going to have tremendous value here," Durkan said.
The McLay announcement was tied to the fact that Best was added into the finalist pool, just as many community leaders had called for. So, it is natural to suspect a quid pro quo. But Durkan claims that is not the case, and that all the candidates will be given a fair shake this week when they meet with city leaders, activists, media, and the mayor herself.
"Same thing we've already said to them and will say to them again today is - this is a full competition, we want the best chief for the city of Seattle and they are here believing they can be that best chief," she said.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Saturday that former Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay formally withdrew his candidacy after conversations with Durkan on police reform.
Durkan asked for the Police Search Committee to reconvene and choose an additional candidate. After meeting, the assessors selected Best as an additional candidate.
Best joins Eddie Frizell, Inspector with the Minneapolis Police Department and Ely Reyes, Assistant Chief with the Austin Police Department, as one of the three finalists for Seattle police chief.
Best took over as police chief following the departure of Kathleen O'Toole, who held the position since June 2014. Mayor Durkan opened up a nationwide search for the department's next police chief. A 25-person committee began the search in January.
Best was in the running for the position before the finalists were announced in May, but was not chosen as a finalist for the permanent job - a move that angered the union representing Seattle police officers.
Officer Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, said it was "insulting" that Best wasn't chosen because she was not an outside candidate.
"Former Mayor Tim Burgess, speaking as a co-chair of the Chief’s Selection Committee, downplayed all of the accomplishments and reforms that have been achieved by the men and women of the Seattle Police Department over the past five years and commented that an 'outsider' was needed for the top job to 'change the culture of the department,'" Stuckey said in a released statement.
In a memo to Durkan in May, the search committee found serious long-running issues in the department, hinting at a need for an outside perspective. Burgess said there was a lot of consideration about whether the candidate should come from inside or outside the department.
"While the police department has made tremendous progress in reform, there is still a lot of work yet to do, including some of the foundational cultural reform that has yet to take root, and we felt that it was best at this point for an outsider to come in as chief of police,” Burgess said.
Stuckey said in his letter that Best was the second-highest ranking member of the Seattle Police Department as the department reached compliance with reforms set forth by the Department of Justice and that she provided the leadership needed to change the culture.
"For Former Mayor Burgess to downplay this achievement is an insult to each and every member of the department who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time," Stuckey continued.
This upcoming week, all candidates will do a series of community meetings and interviews with Mayor Durkan.
"As I begin the interview process, our next chief must be committed to public safety while continuing to build an accountable, diverse police department focused on meaningful and lasting reforms. I look forward to listening to the community and talking with all three candidates," Durkan said in a released statement.
KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report.