Report details path to repairing ‘erosion of trust’ between Seattle police, protesters

Mar 14, 2022, 3:19 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2022, 9:06 am
Seattle protesters...
Protesters and police during a June 2020 demonstration in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A newly-released report from Seattle’s Office of the Inspector General issues a series of recommendations to the city’s police department, stemming from June 2020 protests near the East Precinct on Capitol Hill.

Watchdog group: SPD ‘added fuel to the fire’ during 2020 protests

The 73-page report is based on protests that took place between June 2–7, 2020, pointing to a fractured relationship between demonstrators and law enforcement, while detailing a series of proposed steps to restore that trust.

The OIG panel — comprised of community members and SPD officers — tasked with compiling the report also came to a handful of conclusions, centered on “the continued erosion of trust and constructive dialogue between SPD and community.” In the context of protests in June of 2020, that was believed to be the result of barricades creating so-called “hot spots” for conflict between police and demonstrators, and how SPD’s use of less lethal weapons resulted in “potentially dangerous and unintended consequences to bystanders,” with exhaustion on the part of officers who had been working extended shifts with no time off also cited as an additional factor at play.

“Without working with protesters to understand their goals and work toward a mutually agreed upon solution, the department continued to make tactical decisions that did not de-escalate the situation,” the report reads.

That all culminated in what the panel described as “reactive (rather than proactive) tactics” on the part of police, which only further served to escalate tensions, it concluded.

Moving forward, the report recommends action covering four categories: community legitimacy, situational awareness, communication and community engagement, and tactics and equipment.

Seattle police detail challenges in stopping protesters from destroying property

For reestablishing community legitimacy, it points to a need to address “the gap between what SPD may be permitted to do by law or policy, and what its officers need to do to meet the standards of justice expected by the community.” That then feeds into the idea of establishing better situational awareness, where the panel says SPD needs to “change its mindset” when it comes to protests, “moving from a mindset of crowd management and control to one of crowd facilitation and crowd safety.”

The hope is to have that lead to improved lines of communication between police and protesters, both before and after demonstrations take place, while gaining a better understanding of “how arrests or uses of force on individuals committing low level offense can result in the escalation of tensions rather than calming the crowd.”

Read the full report at this link.

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Report details path to repairing ‘erosion of trust’ between Seattle police, protesters