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Police Chief Carmen Best, precinct, crowd control
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Seattle police chief warns council of ban on crowd control tools ahead of weekend

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best talks with activists near a plywood-covered and closed Seattle police precinct Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has penned another letter to the city council, this one warning members that Ordinance 119805 concerning crowd control tools goes into effect this weekend. Also this weekend are several known events planned across the city that potentially include some of the same individuals who may be responsible for the destruction seen in Seattle last weekend and Wednesday night.

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“As City Council’s legislation goes into effect, it will create even more dangerous circumstances for our officers to intervene using what they have left – riot shields and riot batons,” Best wrote on the Seattle Police Blotter. “For these reasons, SPD will have an adjusted deployment in response to any demonstrations this weekend. The Council legislation gives officers no ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd.”

On Wednesday night, windows at many other businesses in the Capitol Hill neighborhood were broken. Individuals broke in to a businesses on East Olive Way and started a fire inside. At one store, merchandise was put in the middle of the street where it was lit on fire. Two banks were also damaged in the area of Summit and Madison.

SPD said about 150 people were “doing massive amounts of property damage, looting, shooting fireworks, and committing arson.”

The events on Sunday, July 19, also included property destruction and attacks on officers. SPD says more than a dozen officers were injured on those two nights.

Chief Best expects the potential for similar activity over the upcoming weekend, and without the tools that officers have been trained to use to disperse crowds, she says it would be reckless to confront the level of violence they’re witnessing.

Additionally, Best said that because the language in the ban prohibits “the procurement and ownership of such tools” across the board at rallies or demonstrations, her officers will no longer be carrying OC spray.

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“We continue to assess the impact of the prohibition on the procurement, ownership, and use of these tools on SWAT operations,” Best wrote.

The chief closed by saying she hopes the council and her department can productively work together on public safety. She also hopes the council will use its leadership to encourage peaceful demonstrations.

Chief Best sent a letter to her staff Thursday night, reminding them about the ordinance and adding that the SPD will be “significantly adjusting” their deployment plans for the weekend.

To the women and men of the Seattle Police Department –

I am writing to provide an update on the department’s plan for responding to the on-going demonstrations and unrest in the City.

As you may have seen, yesterday the federal court chose to not intercede, at this time, in the Council’s ordinance banning the possession or use of less-lethal tools typically used in crowd control situations   – including the 40mm “blue nose” and any chemical irritant.

This does include OC (“pepper spray”), if it is used at a demonstration, rally, or in any way that it would affect someone other than the intended individual. Since it would nearly impossible to keep OC spray from affecting anyone nearby, the ordinance effectively bans the use of OC as well.

The ordinance goes into effect this weekend, on Sunday, July 26th.

Given these facts, and with many individuals clearly intent on violence as in recent events, we are significantly adjusting our deployment plans for all upcoming major events, including this weekend.

Your commanders will provide more detailed information, but I want to be clear that I will never ask you to risk your personal safety to protect property without the tools to do so in a safe way.

We will closely monitor all events, and the incident commanders will direct any action in line with laws, department policies, and officer safety considerations. We will continue to address life safety incidents and calls for service.

The Council voted 9-0, with no input from the department, to place us in this position. Simply put, I cannot ask any of you to do this work limited only to your sidearm, baton, and body as tools. These are not tools that are reasonable in modern policing for crowd control.

It is my hope that after hearing from the OIG, the OPA, the SPD, and community, Council will reconsider the language of the current ordinance. APRS is working to adjust policies as currently needed, and more information will be forthcoming shortly detailing what to do with any of the soon-to-be banned tools you may currently have.

Thank you for continuing to serve this department and this city. I appreciate it and so many in this city appreciate it.

 

Please stay safe,

Carmen Best

Chief of Police

Seattle Police Department

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