Carmen Best shares what it is like to be “Black in Blue” in her 2021 bestselling book that is available on Amazon and at local booksellers. The retired Seattle Police Chief tells her story of navigating racism and discrimination early in her career and dealing with civil unrest as a police chief during BLM demonstrations in Seattle.
In 2018, Best became the first Black woman to lead the city’s police force until she stepped down in 2020 amidst budget cuts. Her book, “Black in Blue: Lessons on Leadership, Breaking Barriers, and Racial Reconciliation,” which details her rise to police chief, became an instant success, hitting the #1 Amazon bestseller list within 24 hours of its release.
In her book, Best recalls incidents of hardship, including parallel stories of young Carmen being passed up for student government and Deputy Chief Best being passed up for police chief. What’s more, she discusses the discrimination she faced both as a young girl and as an adult.
The book is both autobiographical and instructional with “tactical debriefs” peppered throughout to drive home the hard lessons Best learned and wants her readers to learn, too. Her account is a guide to young leaders, filled with advice from one who so transparently depicts her own shortcomings in ways that are often comical and relatable.
A theme that runs through her book is the reconciliation between two seemingly opposed worlds – at least on the surface – that Best found herself in. As the title implies, Best works to reconcile being Black and being a police officer amidst an age of “defund the police.” Her work ultimately reveals how she has used her position to advocate for the Black community.
Her stories provide the reader an inside look at a leader’s journey, the trials and hardships that sharpened her, and the mistakes she made along the way. From early childhood to military training to the day Best stepped down as police chief, Best seamlessly weaves together charming anecdotes with hard lessons and advice to her reader.
Carmen Best was willing to speak with the Lynnwood Times about her book, her life, and her career. Our correspondence is as follows.
Lynnwood Times: What motivated you to finally sit down and write your story, and why now?
Best: As they say – time provides clarity. In the middle of everything, and even in those couple of few months after retiring, I don’t think I had the perspective to really translate what I had taken in and produce something someone in policing – or even not in policing – could benefit from. Also, it was cathartic to write things down and to reflect. It helped me process and stitch together a really enjoyable but complex career, and it helped to know that even though, for now, I am not in policing, I could provide some insights for those who are. I mean, at this moment in history, I think we need more people to stand up and commit to honest service and leadership and not fall to the mange of the day.
Lynnwood Times: You’ve done a lot of traveling to promote your book recently, meeting many new people from all walks of life who’ve come together to celebrate your book. What lessons or wisdom have you gained through this experience?
Best: Not to sound trite, but, we really are so much more alike than we are different. We should acknowledge a commonality can a human level. Since I retired, and even when I was attending local and national meetings as Chief, I have spoken to so many different types of groups and people. Really, what it comes down to is, people want to know their family is safe and provided for, that if they do hard work they can get ahead, and that our government and its systems will treat them and everyone else fairly.
I have met with people on flights, in seminars, and at book signings who I know have completely different political views from me and from each other, but that isn’t what gets brought up. They want to know how they can help their communities – how they can serve. I think those of us who get the honor to be leaders have to hear that and answer that call. We have to work together and allow this country to do what it does best – be one, indivisible, country. There is too much focus and stoking of our differences to get attention and to get votes.
Lynnwood Times: “Black in Blue” hit the #1 Amazon bestseller list within 24 hours of its release. Why do you believe this book resonates with so many people?
Best: I think people always like to get an insider’s view of how things really happened. We know that information on social media is often distorted or contrived. It’s hard to tell what is true and what isn’t. We can even curate our news to ensure we only hear what we want to hear. I think people are drawn to real stories about why people choose to serve. A lot of people work for local, state, and federal governments, but it’s really only 7% of the population. Less than 1% serve in the military today. I think there are compelling stories of working with community, especially on difficult areas during difficult times.
Lynnwood Times: The book details the many life lessons and leadership principles you learned at home or as a child that contributed to your success. What is the most important lesson you learned that you want to share with young people today?
Best: I say it in my book. I say it at speeches. Relationships are everything. In the first chapter of the book, I wrote about my favorite childhood memory, seeing my younger brother smile when I gave him my gloves so he wasn’t freezing cold anymore. It was that sibling love. That knowledge that we had each others’ backs.
I think part of why we are so fractured right now when it comes to politics and sometimes even just basic issues, is we have lost a lot of relationships. Maybe it’s because of social media. The pandemic has not helped. But it started before then. We have had so many wonderful advances that have made life better and easier, but they also allow us to get along on our own more.
We need more opportunities to see what happens when we build real relationships. Nurturing those, seeing those thrive…that will truly bring happiness.
Lynnwood Times: How do you hope your book effects change in today’s America?
Best: That we focus on doing the work. We spend too much time and effort, I think, trying to be seen. Whether it’s wanting likes on social media or wanting votes, if we could all focus on doing things that help our communities right now, I know it would unite us. It would make us stronger. We could have some of the much-needed reconciliation I speak about in the book. But it is going to take a lot more of us committing to our core beliefs and values and just doing the work, and worrying a lot less about whether we are doing the work in the way that will get us “likes.”
Lynnwood Times: Having gone through disappointments in your life, feeling as though you’ve been overlooked, what led you to continue pursuing your goals, rather than giving in to disappointment?
Best: I never wanted to let disappointment win. If disappointment gets you to stop – it won. THEY won. Be it a man who didn’t think a woman could do a job, or someone who didn’t think a Black person could live in a certain neighborhood or be Chief of Police. If you give up, they win.
In this country, we always persevere because when we get knocked down, but we get back up, stronger, more united. We need to call this country together again around a common purpose. I know it’s out there. There are many needs, but we need to find the one that people can generally unite behind. I think a lot of people are disappointed right now, but we can’t give into that.
Where to find Black in Blue by Carmen Best
Best’s bestselling book “Black in Blue” is available on Amazon and local booksellers for those who want to read more about her journey and the lessons on leadership she has learned along the way.