Seattle's Former Police Chief Carmen Best published her book “Black in Blue” in October of 2021, and it was the #1 book in new releases when it came out.
Carmen grew up in the Puget Sound area to a loving mother and a father who was in the military. She had a close relationship with her siblings and seemed to always be driven from a young age. Carmen served in the military for some time before working for an insurance company in their finance department. She was looking for something new and saw that the Seattle Police Department was hiring. She submitted an application and was eventually hired as an officer. That would be the beginning of a thirty-year career in law enforcement as she would eventually work her way up to becoming the City’s Chief of Police.
Listen in to hear about Carmen’s early days as a police officer, why she stayed in law enforcement for 30-years and hear her expand on some of the impactful stories she shares in her best-selling book, Black in Blue.
Carmen Best 00:02
You know, somebody's down. Oh my gosh. So this little disturbance has turned into like a shooting, you know, somebody's injured. And I'm the primary officer. And you know, I'm heading what I believe is the right direction and supervising
Ash Faraj 00:17
inspiring career stories from today's top CEOs, executives and leaders. I'm your host ash and you're tuning in to the ExecuTalks podcast. This podcast is sponsored by wisdom app. Wisdom gives people expert help when they need it most. Listen in real time and ask questions to experts in areas from business to finance to fitness. It's a social audio app where you can listen in or host live conversations. I'll be doing a wisdom talk on getting your career kick started and what I think is important for you to be successful in either starting a business or working your way up the corporate ladder. Join me tonight Monday January third at 8pm Pacific Standard Time on the wisdom app. In this episode, we sit down with former Seattle police chief Carmen Best. Carmen grew up in the Puget Sound area to a loving mother and a father who was in the military. She had a close relationship with her siblings and seemed to always be driven from a young age. Carmen served in the military for some time before working for an insurance company and their finance department. She was looking for something new and saw that the Seattle Police Department was hiring. She submitted an application was eventually hired as an officer. That would be the beginning of a 30 year career in law enforcement as she would eventually work her way up to becoming the city's Chief of Police. Stick around until the end to hear about Carmen's early days as a police officer, why she stayed in law enforcement for 30 years. And hear her expand on some of the impactful stories she shares in her best selling book, black in blue. So really quick, before we get into the show, Carmen published her book, black in blue in October of 2021. And it was the number one book in new releases when it came out. I've personally read it. And it's a great book full of stories and lessons that I hold tight as I navigate my way through my career and my life. We're giving away three signed copies. So if you'd like a signed copy, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org The first three that email me we'll get it. Now without further ado, here's the story. Today we are joined by Seattle's former police chief Carmen Best, Carmen, thank you for being with us today.
Carmen Best 02:17
Good afternoon, Ash. I'm very glad to be here.
Ash Faraj 02:19
I'm so excited about this conversation. I've read your book, you know, black in blue. And I'm just I'm honestly really excited to have this conversation with you.
Carmen Best 02:28
Yeah, me too. It's very exciting. I was very excited to get the book out there. And I think it's landing pretty well with most people. So it's a it's a great time.
Ash Faraj 02:37
So the first question I always start off with is I'm sitting in a high school classroom with Carmen. Who is Carmen relative to the other kids?
Carmen Best 02:45
That's a really good question. Well, it's funny, because I just actually met up with several of my high school teammates, for the Seahawks game last weekend, and we still catch up from time to time with each other. So I, you know, was fairly studious, but also really engaging loved the folks I was in class with, serious athlete at the time, and fully engaging, always loves the students. I love doing sports. And that was for the ABC's of me,
Ash Faraj 03:18
I'm just thinking about this now, because I'm just remembering, but, you know, your father was, he was kind of the one supporting the household, you know, but also he had his own issues going on. And, you know, you kind of feared that. You were you guys were dependent on him financially to support you as a family. But I could be wrong, but I feel like what part of what motivated you is just that like, fear of like, oh, like, you know, the instability of like, oh, do I know if my father is gonna be there for me? Or is that right? Like, is that kind of what motive like drove you? Because it seems like when you're a kid, you've always just kind of been motivated and driven?
Carmen Best 03:51
Well, I feel like I was, you know, looking back, you know, hindsight, you have that perfect 2020 vision when you're reflecting back over your life. But you know, I really wasn't worried on a daily basis about it. But I did mention that in the book, because it was a concern from time to time, my father was a heavy drinker. And so we're always worried about, you know, he's going to be okay at work and all those kinds of things that would come up. But I just had a natural, you know, drive and aptitude to want to do things. And my parents were really good about teaching us to be resilient and resourceful. So I think that that just came with the home training.
Ash Faraj 04:28
And you know, obviously, I just told you one of my favorite stories in the book was you know, when you're comforted your little brother, and it was one of your fondest childhood memories. What was what was the relationship like between you and your siblings growing up?
Carmen Best 04:38
You know, we were pretty close, but me and that brothers, my second oldest, my brother was right underneath me, you know, right next to me in age. And it's funny because we loved each other, but we were like other brothers. We felt like cats and dogs. Like we my brother and I always are going out and about something, but and we still to this day, you You know, I really close,
Ash Faraj 05:01
you know, also growing up you love to read, but just out of curiosity, when did you first discover that you loved reading? And what about reading? Do you remember that that kind of like, initially were like, Oh, I love I love reading like, what was it about reading?
Carmen Best 05:11
I, you know, it's really funny I can remember when I first learned to read, which probably nowadays is seen very late, which I know I think I was in kindergarten. And I remember when I learned to actually put the words together and make senses and how cool I thought that was at that I can actually remember that I just had a love of reading ever since I've pulled the covers over my head, we're supposed to be asleep might have a flashlight underneath the covers, you're trying to try to read more pages, you know, I love of mine to read and read it.
Ash Faraj 05:40
Yeah, that's funny how you were trying to be sneaky about reading because I was trying to be sneaky, about not reading. Funny. So there's a big theme in your life about accepting loss with grace, right then when you want it to be ASB president of your high school. And you didn't end up winning. And then when when Mayor Durkan broke the news to you the first time that you weren't in the top three to be considered for Chief? How important do you think it is to accept loss with grace? And then like, how do you manage your emotions in the moment? Because I feel like you just it's so you do so gracefully. Whereas I feel like when I lose, I'm just like, oh,
Carmen Best 06:13
no, yeah, that's funny ash, it comes on the heels of me just finding out that I was a finalist for the NYPD Commissioner, didn't get the job, I found that out, like in the last day or so. And you know, just sometimes for you, and sometimes it's not for you, you know what I mean? And so I genuinely can feel happy for other people's success. And so I'm happy for them, whoever, you know, gets it, I'm happy for them and just know there's something else and that one door closes, another door opens. I found that to be true over the years. And why waste your energy and emotion on what you can't change
Ash Faraj 06:47
is are there any, like strategies that you use, though, because, you know, we're all human, we all feel things. Especially I'm thinking about that moment, when you were, you know, sitting across from, you know, Mayor Durkan, and you felt upset? How did you like it? Was there something that you did to hold it back, I'm just curious,
Carmen Best 07:02
at that moment, it was tears, but not like boohoo tears, but like that anger and frustration, tears, you know, the, those tears are just well up, and you can't really hardly hold them back. But I did and just, you know, he held on to, you know, the fact that I really wanted to always be dignified. And to not overreact, you know, which is probably a very good thing to have your personal law enforcement, like, you don't need to react to anything, it's got to be, you know, smooth and calm, you know, because there's a lot of things coming at you. So I just really am I also sort of trained myself to think it through or to try to think it through when I can. I felt disappointed, I wanted to, you know, I was very frustrated. But then, you know, that wasn't the time or the place. So I simply, you know, responded, probably in a very, you know, simple and monotone way. And, you know, left with dignity, you know, then went and cried later on.
Ash Faraj 08:04
So, you're just delaying it a little bit. So, in your book, you also mentioned that, um, you know, I think the quote was that we learned the most important leadership lessons in our childhood, do you think that you know, because your childhood is something that is obviously something out of our control? Like, we don't choose our parents, we don't choose where we don't choose our childhood, right? Is there a way to reverse what has been planted inside of us? Because, you know, somebody who grew up with parents, for example, who are like, blatantly racist, and therefore raised to believe that their race was superior to others, or vice versa? Is there? Like, is there a way to, for that for somebody to change that?
Carmen Best 08:37
I think there is. I mean, there has to be right. Otherwise, yeah, as you know, I think part of that when I was writing that was, it was you know, the people that didn't want us to go with them to the party, because we were black girls. And what did they what did they learn that that somehow
Ash Faraj 08:54
and just for context, obviously, I know the story, but maybe some of our audience members don't know the story. Can you tell the story about you know how they oh two black girls at the party
Carmen Best 09:01
two friends were with me, so it was my friend, Tracy and my friend Vonda. Tracy is a white girl. Very cute, blonde, young white woman at the time. And Vonda another woman African American at the time we were in high school. Vonda was one year older than us so she would have been a senior we were juniors I believe, and we were on our way to a party that Tracy had been invited to wanted us to come along with her. No problem. We're all friends. We're gonna go. So we all we both we all get in the car. Tracy is following another car in front of us to wherever the party is out in the woods, which we think about now it's probably, you know, that's where all bad things happened out in the woods at night. We were heading out there to a party. And we and we got I don't know three quarters away or so there. Maybe halfway I'm not sure. And the car pulls over and Tracy gets out of you know, she pulls over behind. She gets out of our car and walks towards the car. And we can see there's some sort of heated conversation that's happening. We're not sure what's going on. And we can hear her saying what no, and we're just not sure what the conversation is, obviously, she's angry. And she comes stomping back to the car where we are. I'm in the backseat vonda's In the front passenger seat. And we're chatting, and Tracy is back to the car. And she tells us that they didn't want us to go to the party, because they didn't want two black girls at the party, you know, this party, The Wiz or whatever. And so my immediate reaction was, okay, well, let's just go home, I don't want to go to the party, they don't want us there. And I don't want to get, you know, be involved in anything. But each of them were adamant that they were just like, now we're definitely going to that party, we are going for sure. And we're, you know, we're not going to have people tell us, we can't come just because, you know, the fact that we're African American, or that we have melanin in our skin, like we're going, and the lesson out of that was mostly was mostly that, you know, it was a time that you realized you had to stand up for yourself and stand up for what is right. And I'm so glad that, you know, they took me out of my comfort zone, which would have been a lot more comfortable for me just to walk away and not have any any drama. But they're like, No, we're gonna go, we need to show that this is not right. We know it's not right, we're not gonna settle a stand for it. And so that was a great lesson there. But also a piece of it was, you know, for us, I'll be in high school, where did that person get the view that somehow, you know, having two African American girls as party was like, a bad thing? You know, and I'm sure that didn't come from any of us. And it probably didn't come from most of the folks that we hung out with. So those are things that probably people learned at home, you know,
Ash Faraj 11:45
you chose a career path in law enforcement, I think it was almost 30, almost 30 years ago. Now. Why did you choose a career in law enforcement?
Carmen Best 11:53
That's a great question. I get asked that all the time. I, it shows me, you know, I was out of the military had been working at AETNA life and casualty insurance, in their finance department, the Seattle Police Department was hiring, I thought it might be the opportunity to do something, you know, I didn't know that much about policing. But I wanted to just try it out. You know, and so I didn't know, when I did, you know, whether I would stay or not and what it was going to be like, for sure. But I just, I just wanted to try it out and see what what it was about, you know, and what's interesting is that when I went to the academy, and they go around the class, they ask everybody why they're there, they have previous law enforcement experience, and you just ask questions about each, each candidate except at the Academy, and most of them, I mean, the vast majority were like, I wanted to be a police officer, since I was, you know, four, five, or knee high to a deck or whatever the thing is there. And for me, it was like, Look, I'm, I'm just here to try it out. I'm not even sure about I'm gonna be here next weekend, to be honest, but I wanted to try it out. But if it wasn't working, I was just gonna get get out of there. Right. But, you know, I ended up being there for almost 30 years as most people who come into the profession, usually have pretty lengthy careers, once they make it through the academy, and through the field training, and all that, overall is really good career, I met a lot of great people, you know, got to do a lot of different things got to work with different areas. You know, it had its challenges, too, but much more success and much more fun stuff than challenges.
Ash Faraj 13:34
So if I'm hearing you, right, it's not it's not necessarily that you wanted a career in law enforcement, but you just kind of tried it out. And then you were like, Okay, this is my, like, by trial and error,
Carmen Best 13:44
nothing, nothing enticed me to leave. Once I was here, there was no time, I thought, you know, I was a Public Information Officer at one point, you know, maybe we could have done that something along those lines. But I really liked the work that I was doing, you know, and I really felt like it was meaningful. You know, some people have said, you know, it's a calling. And I think for me, at least in many ways, it was, you know, I really felt almost every single day, like I was making a difference in some way. Because a lot of what you do is you're dealing with people who are vulnerable, you know, people who are in mental crisis or who've been abused in some way. And even the abuser in some of those cases. You know, you know, there's something that's going on with them that you do you know what I mean, there's so many things that you can have an effect on. So I felt very rewarded by the position that we got, you know, even when even the times when I had challenges, I felt like it could be very rewarding.
Ash Faraj 14:39
So I read about your first call as an officer. That must have been crazy By the way. Can you relive that moment really quickly and take us through it?
Carmen Best 14:48
I was a new officer working night shift in Seattle where a lot of new offices will get early shift or late shift. And I got a call and I was always I was just so excited to be there and get work done and do things. So I got a call that using dispatchers I hear it on the radio on the police radio, that there is, I think it was just a party or disturbance over it was actually over the last year and what I know now but of course I didn't know at the time. And I was at near, I remember where I was, I was over near like, Harborview type area, because that's where my white beat was, as an officer, new officer. So I hear the call come out, and I answer up and say, Okay, I'm gonna go to this call, right? And George, wherever I wasn't, I'm headed that way. And then they start updating the call, you know, so I'm headed where I think I need to be going, you know, I'm not sure this is before we had GPS and all that it was 30 years ago. So I'm headed what I think I need to be going. And all of a sudden, they update the call that the there's a large disturbance. Like, okay, then they update a couple of things later, large fight, you know, shots fired, you know, somebody down in and I like, oh, my gosh, so this little disturbance is turned into like a shooting, you know, somebody's injured, you know, and I'm the primary officer, and, you know, I'm headed what I believe is the right direction and the supervisor gets on the air. And he starts barking out, you know, we need a staging area, and I did that. And I'm thinking to myself, I'm literally sweating, like thinking, I don't know, I don't know exactly what it is. I'm trying to think, where exactly am I going? And I'm quiet for just like, a second on the air and thinking, Okay, what to do, I guess I'm left and right. And in doing that little, just little pause, two of my squadmates jump in and they're like, Okay, why don't we set the staging area for such and such, and then we can all meet there. And I was like, in the safe access route is whatever it was, I don't remember. I was like, perfect, cuz I know, the safe access route I can get there. But they kind of came in at a moment when I was somewhat, you know, in crisis, myself, trying to figure it all out, and gave me that little moment extra to figure out where we were where we going, we could all meet up met up go in contact fire contact, witnesses get the person to safety, everything went down like it was supposed to. But I said it's those moments, we're talking about leadership and how you can show leadership, even if you're not like a supervisor, or whatever, they really show leadership, they jumped in, they helped out just enough to get me sort of where I was stabilized and can do what I needed to do. And we can handle the call. And I always appreciated that. And always try to do the same for others. Right? As you lift, lift others up when you can
Ash Faraj 17:34
The other Chapter of your book is about genuine relationships. I love that chapter. By the way, you know, you said that the book quotes, you know, meeting new people, building genuine relationships is the best way to learn about the world and appreciate others, right. And the digital world we live in today, you know, more and more people are having difficulty building genuine relationships, especially with in person communication, kind of not being as accessible as before, what are some things to keep in mind when seeking to build genuine like, what are some skills to build genuine relationships?
Carmen Best 18:02
Nothing, nothing breaks the relationship quicker than somebody, then a person saying one thing and doing another, you know, not being authentic, or just flat out, just not telling the truth. I mean, it's hard to build with those things. So I really always make it a point to try to be as honest as possible. And you can't be it. If you can't tell somebody, I just I can't share that with you. If you haven't seen somebody in a while, you might want to pick up the phone and call them or you might want to meet them someplace, or you and they should be able to tell that you're doing that because there's a genuine concern. If you're not authentic, people will see through it. People just know when people are, we used to call him when I was a kid plastic, like they're plastic, they're not real, they're not being genuine, as what we're really saying. So bring your authentic self to the conversation. You know, and be respectful of course, and invest in invest in people that will help along the way and, and I didn't write this in the book. But I will tell you when I when I wasn't selected initially to be in the top three. And then and then you know, average I was in the in the running. And then I was selected and people came forward to tell stories. There were people that community they came forward to talk about things that I had almost forgotten, you know, that were really impactful for them and impactful for me too. But they were just so much different, you know, but one mother in particular stood out because she talked about how good it felt to be able to when I came over to the house to visit her after her son was murdered near her home. And you know, and I'm a mother and you know, I could feel that pain and so, more so than being there for perfunctory police staff, I was just there to be this somebody she could talk to you at that moment, who knew a lot about the case and that kind of thing. And so, and we still, you know, stay connected on Facebook, but you know, I still keep track of where she is and what's going on. And that's a piece of building genuine relationships. I really wouldn't have remembered that moment, but it meant something to her. And she brought it up in a public setting. So that's the kind of thing.
Ash Faraj 20:08
So you feel like humans have like an innate, like, ability to just detect whether somebody's being fake or not. You think,
Carmen Best 20:15
Not always but you know what I mean, sometimes you'll know, you know, when people are when they're not being genuine with you. And actually, you got to Ash when you talk to folks, and you realize, maybe this person isn't being genuine about this, whatever it is, situation,
Ash Faraj 20:34
it's kind of a gut feeling. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it seems so simple, just like, you know, be honest. You know, it's just like, be honest. And that's, that's a good way to build genuine relationships. But yeah,
Carmen Best 20:45
it's, you know, to be honest, about being honest. Not always, you know, it's easy as you like it to be because you have some situations where you don't have brutal honesty, you know, but, you know, I'm talking about in a much more meaningful level, you know, honesty and integrity become critically important to people.
Ash Faraj 21:08
You had time to put your lipstick and mascara on, why were you late,
Carmen Best 21:10
I don't have that skill at all. But I do put on lipstick. One my life lessons that I got from my, from my friend, who was my supervisor at the time, and we got to know each other really well over the years. But yeah, be on time.
Ash Faraj 21:28
I love that story. So, you know, obviously, throughout your career, you've had a lot of mentors, allies and sponsors, and you know, you say that these, these people will kind of like willingly help you and show up. Because this is kind of like part of human nature, people just want to help. I know, there are some people wondering, how can I naturally find a mentor or sponsor, right? Like, I don't have one yet? How can I go about finding one? How can I put myself in a position for someone to be wanting to willing to help me if that makes sense,
Carmen Best 21:56
that's never easy, I will just say that, you know, finding it the appropriate people, because some of it is organic, a little bit like it's chemistry in some ways. Definitely, when you see people doing things that you think, that are important, or that you like their style, or you'd like to learn more from them, there's an opportunity to just say, Hey, I'd like to learn more about the way you handle whatever it is, or I saw you do such and such, and, you know, I thought that was really impressive. Maybe, you know, maybe you can help me in those situations, or I'm not as as outgoing as you are in these particular scenarios. But I would love some key tips that you have, and then they'll share it with you or they won't, but usually they'll share that kind of people love talking about themselves and what they're doing, you know, and they'll share that information with you. And you may put it on a certain cadence, what can I meet with you another two weeks and talk more about this, talk more about that, or you can maybe even come out and just say, I'd love for you to mentor me, you know, I've had people do that. But I would say, well, that's why we try it out and see what that's like, because there's just a certain cadence and rhythm and sort of, I can't find a better word than other than to say chemistry that work. But it is important that you look for mentors, you know, people who have more experience in a certain situation, or maybe have a type of personality traits that can help you that you might pick up from and learn from, not only is it important to have mentors, but it's important to be a mentor, because you probably have people coming, you know, underneath you so to speak are behind you in the career field, who can look up to you and stuff from you. So it's it's both ends are important. You know, and I also talk about, you know, sponsorship and allies, but it's really important to have people who I call them allies, but they maybe don't meet with them every two weeks to get, you know, specific tips. But they know you, you know, that you work together, or something to that effect or work on a project together. And you know, they're the ones that will when somebody says hey, I you know, you know that Carmen best, what do you think? And they know you well enough to say, oh, you know, she's she has integrity. She's honest, she's aware, or whatever that is, you know, they're gonna say, you know, because they are an ally to you, and they want to see your success. And believe me, I've had plenty of detractors, to my allies, plenty of very important. You know, so those folks that you that can sort of vouch for you in that way, is really important and support you, you know, find out who those people are, and develop those relationships. And I think I consider sponsors, people who sort of lend you their credibility. They are folks who can help open doors for you help get you into the right, you know, room so to speak, to have the conversations or the right exposure or the right level of knowledge, people who want to sponsor you, because they see something in you and they want to help you. And you know, I've met people that I feel like I really wanted to sponsor and I been sponsored by a people who really wanted to help me succeed for whatever reason, you know, because they just saw something that they thought was worth investing their time and energy. And I would not have gotten that Chief's job, which meant so much to me. For the time that I was able to be the chief, have the community not come forward, really as sponsors, and just put themselves out there, for me to at least be included in the last section. And I was well aware of it. And I was very appreciative, appreciative and very grateful for it. So I felt this very strong need and desire responsibility to try to not let anybody down because they really put themselves out there on my behalf
Ash Faraj 25:41
I'm hearing it sounds like expressing curiosity is important, right? So like expressing curiosity to like for potential people to be like, oh, I want to sponsor your I want to be your ally. And then it also it's also important for, you know, even if you're halfway through, you're not necessarily a senior level in your career. But if you're if you're not necessarily entry level, you should also be looking for people to mentor, is that what you're saying?
Carmen Best 26:03
Yeah, absolutely. That's what I'm saying, you know, sponsor the best people and mentor people, you know, let's say you didn't go to the top, you're going to get them to give you all by yourself, right?
Ash Faraj 26:14
It's lonely anyway
Carmen Best 26:17
Very important to do these things. And to be and to feel good. I also think I mentioned this in the book, but part of being a good mentor is that people take your advice, and they learn from you. And then they end up in a, you know, in a higher position, maybe than you're even in and you should feel really good about having had a role in that.
Ash Faraj 26:35
So you know, you talked about situational leadership in your book as well. And you mentioned that solid, solid leadership skills are aren't enough to, you know, successful leading organization or group of people. But you also need to be able to think quickly on your feet. How do you think somebody can develop that skill set of like, you know, being able to think quick on their feet? Or, you know, or their exercise? Are there things that people could do to develop a train themselves to be able to think quickly on their feet?
Carmen Best 26:57
Yeah, well, practice, right. That's it. And sometimes it's practicing in a way that, you know, it's not a real scenario, but you're like, what would I do right there? Okay, you know, and just sort of walk yourself through your system of thinking, you know, who, what, where, when, and why. I always do that before, you know, hearing like a press briefing or something again, who do I want to talk to? What am I saying, you know, what happened, sort of cadence in my own head, but definitely, it's a practice situation where you got to be thinking things through when I was a new sergeant. And I would drive around, you know, the city, and part of my area, it was Capitol Hill. And I remember driving, I would drive through there. And I would think, you know, what, if, you know, you think of the scenario where there's an explosion at that gas station, what would I do? What if, you know, that something happened, I would start thinking about things in that way. And sort of, like, if it happened, fortunately, none of it ever did, you know, but if it did happen, I would think why I put my command post there, right? You know, some of that stuff, you just have to rehearse and practice in your own head. So that when situation really comes, you're able to quickly process the things you know, you need to do. And policing, I had to do that often. And we like most cops do. So I had a little acronym, you know, you know, AR robot, whatever it was, but respond assume commands set-up containments set-up staging areas through command posts, get a safe access route, you know, identify the officers get a logistics, all that stuff is in my head. So quickly, if something were to happen unexpectedly, I had something in my head that I already knew, then quickly and pulled the main the main pieces out that need to be done. And that happens, you know, when you're dealing with people, and you may have a situation where you say something incorrectly, and you have a you know, you know that, Oh, that wasn't what I wanted to say. And you may have a saying that you say very quickly to, you know, retrack I mean, you just have to practice in your head about thinking through things. And you you develop a skill set just in your own self, to be good at thinking quickly on your feet.
Ash Faraj 29:11
Using your imagination. You know, it's really interesting. I know, you know, this, but there's something in neuroscience where it's like, when you imagine something happening, it's like, as the chemicals that are released in your brain are like, it's as if you're actually living through it. So that makes a lot of sense.
Carmen Best 29:25
Yeah. Oh, visualization. I am a big believer and I'm not a neuroscientist. I don't know that. I don't know that was really a peon, bit of knowledge on it. But I have been told, you know, even when I was very young, and running track, my coach would say, you know, visualize yourself going across the finish line, visualize you know, the baton, how you receive it, how you hand it off and you work through that in your head, so that you have it in your brain? I always thought that helped us be better. Athletes.
Ash Faraj 29:56
You know, you were you retired at a time when things were kind of hectic. You know, obviously the killing of George Floyd happened in 2020, which prompted the defund the police movement and, you know, had it with chaz and chop what made you feel like it was the right time to step down,
Carmen Best 30:09
it was just the combination of things, but mostly, there was, the council was saying that they were going to cut the department by 50% and you can read the headlines, but that was out there, they were gonna, you know, lay off, I was gonna have to lay off all these officers. You know, and in my view, you know, that meant laying off, you know, a lot of our most diverse officers, we've worked really hard to hire people, people of color, and women, and have a record hiring for minority officers at that time, women and people of color. And now they are saying, Oh, we're gonna defund, we, as you know, the last in is the first out, right. So while you know, the council's was trying to say, I'll just pick and choose, but you know, you can't do that you legally cannot do that. So here I was, you know, the situation, the first African American woman Chief, we've gone through a pretty tumultuous several months. And now it culminates with, you know, with letting go of 50% of the department, and I just wasn't going to do it, you know, that would not be the legacy I could ever be comfortable living with. Saying that, you know, we had our first black woman, she she came in, and, you know, under her, under her jurisdiction under her time, you know, the most people were laid off, and they were the most women and the most people of color. I just, you know, I didn't want to do that. And then I also felt like, when we lay all these people off, you know, crime is going to go up, we're gonna have many more problems in the city, because I haven't heard an alternative plan to police response. So not only do I have that looming about, you know, letting go of the very diverse department, I also was being set up, in my view for failure, because, as you know, when crime goes up, when problems occur, people are gonna turn to the chief and ask, Well, what happened? What are you doing, and really, your hands will be somewhat tied, because your resources are very limited. And I just didn't want to have that be set up for failure to have the legacy be a bad legacy. I don't want to be the last African American woman, whoever holds the job, right? You know, so we know how things work in this society. So I knew it was really time for me to go, you know, the issue had become too intense, maybe in some ways, too personal for me to be the right person to lead the department any further.
Ash Faraj 32:38
So when you began your career, right? And you say this in your book that you wanted to make positive change and wanted to impact when you stepped down? It wasn't it wasn't necessarily a great time. Do you feel like, you know, now, do you feel like you accomplished your goal in some form of making the impact that you wanted to make?
Carmen Best 32:54
Well, I think, stepping down, did I actually interview someone I was telling them, I think it made a difference. I think that all this stuff was happening. And everything was in the papers and all of that. But when I said I was leaving I was retiring, I think people started paying much closer attention, like what is going on at the Seattle Police Department, what is happening? What is happening there that in a city that's hire their first black woman, and we have all these this racial divide, that she's walking away? I absolutely know that people were questioning what was happening. And I think it made a difference in the how things played out. Because of course, after that they never did actually defund it by 50%, although they did take quite a bit of the funding away. But it wasn't to the extreme level that we were hearing when it started. So I think that did have a positive impact. And I think that, you know, because it had gotten so we everybody sort of dug in and become so entrenched, it probably was a time for a new set of eyes to be, at least in the department, to help maneuver some of the very difficult at times to work with counsel. So what are you up to now and people are probably wondering what is coming? I mean, obviously, I know you what you're up to but what are you up to now? I'm working with a private security company, I'm handling one of their large global accounts. I also, you know, am a contributor to Ms. All the NBC, the NBC Universal, which is MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC. And I do that as a law enforcement analyst. And then with King five as LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST for them on occasion, I'll pop in and, you know, doing some speaking around different places, and then I chair the human and civil rights committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. I also am on the mass violence team for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. So if there's a mass casualty of mass violence incident. We have a cadre of folks who can come out and respond and help out. Doing things like that. You know, I sit on a number of boards and committees, where I feel like you know, I can contribute the YWCA, United Way King County, St. Jude also acts on artificial intelligence.
Ash Faraj 35:25
Something I look for when I decide to partner with someone or hire someone is
Carmen Best 35:29
Ash Faraj 35:30
the most important quality and a leader is
Carmen Best 35:33
oh gosh gonna say the same thing. Integrity,
Ash Faraj 35:36
really, okay. Something that has helped me get past my fears and insecurities have been,
Carmen Best 35:41
Ash Faraj 35:41
something I've personally struggled with as a leader has been
Carmen Best 35:45
Ash Faraj 35:49
something I do to make sure that I feel positive and stay productive is
Carmen Best 35:53
Ash Faraj 35:53
If I were to go back and talk to my younger self in my mid 20s, I would tell myself,
Carmen Best 35:58
always believe in yourself.
Ash Faraj 36:00
The sweetest moment I felt in my entire career was when,
Carmen Best 36:04
oh my goodness, I think when I got sworn in to do career wise, when I got sworn in to be the police chief at the Northwest African American Museum, I was there in a historic moment in a very historic place among so many community members being sworn in by my friend and judge, also African American woman, Judge Anita Crawford Willis, and it was really powerful, super powerful,
Ash Faraj 36:29
I still have a long way to go but looking forward if I could be remembered for just one thing it would be
Carmen Best 36:34
making a difference. And you know, the community you know, and and number of capacities, but really I want to be known for making a difference in the community is very important to me, you know, making things better for young people. In particular,
Ash Faraj 36:51
the last one, if I if I were stranded on an island and I had access to one meal, that would be
Carmen Best 36:56
Probably I'd have some salmon and a salad.
Ash Faraj 36:59
Thank you for tuning into this episode. Tune in next time to get another dose of inspiring career stories from today's top CEOs, executives and leaders. See you soon.