Federal judge blocks Seattle law to ban crowd control tools
A federal judge blocked Seattle’s law that would prohibit police from using crowd control tools. The city council’s ordinance was to take effect on Sunday.
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.
U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order Friday night requested by the Department of Justice.
KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott reports Judge Robart stressed that the order was to be very “temporary” as he wants to stay on track to get a report on the impact of the city council’s ordinance from accountability partners on Aug. 15.
Police Chief Best wrote in a blotter post that the council’s legislation would put her officers in a dangerous situation with nothing but shields and batons. Best said SPD would be adjusting deployment in response to any demonstrations this weekend.
Chief Best sent a letter to her staff Thursday night about ordinance:
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,
Seattle Police Department