The head of the Seattle’s Police Department told officers in a video address on Thursday that the decision to abandon the city’s Third Precinct to activists was “not my decision,” and has prevented the department from responding to emergency calls in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Police Chief Carmen Best, who joined Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan at a news conference Thursday afternoon, revealed that “ultimately the city had other plans for the building and relented to public pressure.”
“You should know, leaving the precinct was not my decision,” Best told her fellow officers. “You fought for days to protect it. I asked you to stand on that line. Day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened and in some cases hurt. Then to have a change of course nearly two weeks in, it seems like an insult to you and our community.”
On Wednesday, the Seattle Police Department said it would try to reopen the East Precinct, and Best was able to visit the location on Thursday. “Our calls for service have more than tripled,” she told reporters. “These are responses to emergency calls — rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts that have been occurring in the area that we’re not able to get to.”
At the press conference with Durkan, who claimed the occupants of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) were engaging in an act of “patriotism,” Best remained noncommittal on a when police might return to the area, but explained that the evacuation had come after reports that the precinct could be burned down.
“We were asked to do an operational plan, in case we needed to leave,” Best said, not saying who exactly gave the order to withdraw. “We got an update that there was the potential for fire — of course if the precinct goes down in fire, the whole block could potentially burn up.”
Best also clarified that her department had not received “any formal reports” of CHAZ occupants extorting businesses, after saying in the video address that police had heard of “armed people” in the area “demanding payment from business owners in exchange for protection.”