As the one-year anniversary of Seattle’s 2012 May Day riots rolls around, the Seattle Police Department has released a statement saying the same mistakes that happened a year ago won’t happen again. “All employees assigned to future demonstrations need to have clearly defined expectations, equipment appropriate to the task at hand and the training necessary to deliver effective public safety services during dynamic, rapidly evolving events,” Sean Whitcomb, head of SPD’s public information unit, writes.
An independent report on the May Day incidents commissioned by SPD concluded that many in the department were unsure of their role as the protests arrived — even as briefings on the use of undercover officers and planning for the deployment of pepper spray continued:
An internal memo leaked following the 2012 riots criticized Chief John Diaz and the department for its response and tactics as thousands of marchers took over downtown Seattle. The memo documented SPD’s use of undercover officers assigned to infiltrate the gathering crowds and what it described as poorly planned deployment of officers as violence broke out. The day was marked by chaotic scenes including assistant chief Mike Sanford stumbling into a crowd of protesters without riot gear.
An ongoing media effort to identify and capture suspects from the day’s violence and vandalism resulted in a handful of charges. Meanwhile, an FBI probe of Portland anarchists’ connections to the May Day protests in Seattle was revealed late last year. Investigations and repercussions related to those activities continue to play out.
The independent report concludes that SPD needed to adopt “21st Century” law enforcement objectives including improved principles of crowd management and working with community stakeholders. It also recommends earlier planning for potential violence, improved “media strategies” and more restricted use of pepper spray.
Here is the SPD statement released Tuesday including links to an internal report on the May Day riots and an independent report commissioned by SPD:
We are committed to providing public safety services so that people can lawfully assemble without fear and disruption. In order to better prepare for future demonstrations, we produced our own after action report to review our response to criminal behavior that occurred on May Day 2012. We simultaneously commissioned an independent and external after action report.
Both reports noted that our officers performed professionally throughout the multiple events that day.
However, there was confusion regarding event expectations. The lack of clarity had a negative impact on our response when a brief period of intense and orchestrated violence erupted.
We acknowledge that all employees assigned to future demonstrations need to have clearly defined expectations, equipment appropriate to the task at hand and the training necessary to deliver effective public safety services during dynamic, rapidly evolving events.
We are working to ensure that the experience gained from May Day 2012 is applied to May Day 2013 as well as any future events our city faces.