After months of protests in Seattle and a stream of examples of excessive force used by police, the Seattle Police Department debuted drafts in December that would alter its policies on use of force and crowd management last month, but advocates say they fall short.
Advocates and community groups have spent weeks organizing response to the proposals but there is still time to add your voice. SPD said its deadline for public feedback is Friday.
The specific existing policies, which undergo annual review, that the new drafts revise were originally developed in collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department and were approved by a federal court, noted SPD spokesperson Valerie Carson.
“Since June, SPD has significantly modified its tactical approach to meeting the evolving nature of this unprecedented series of protest events, responsive to both community concerns and internal discussions around lessons learned,” Carson said in an email, emphasizing changes in SPD policy around crowd management — tactics that faced heavy criticism over the summer for unnecessary escalation with protesters.
These changes include “robust emphasis” on tactics that isolate individuals who have broken the law so they can be arrested and reducing the “SPD visible footprint around these events” with the recognition that a heavy police presence can escalate tension.
Seattle Community Police Commission senior policy analyst Nia Franco said, however, there is little change to the crowd dispersal tools available to SPD, which would still be able to use tear gas and blast balls under the departmental policy. The CPC has consistently called for limitations on the use of crowd control weapons, including last year when, along with the Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountability, it called on SPD to stop using tear gas on protesters.
“Their proposed changes completely disregard those recommendations that we’ve made,” Franco said in a Wednesday meeting of the commission. Continue reading