Seattle’s police chief issued a memo over the weekend, warning the city’s residents and business owners that police officers would not be able to “safely intercede” in the event that homes and businesses were targeted during expected protests after the city’s council passed a measure barring cops from using non-lethal crowd control methods.
The new measure, passed as a way of preventing members of the police force from using excessive force, “bans Seattle Police officers the use of less-lethal tools, including pepper spray that is commonly used to disperse crowds that have turned violent,” according to Chief Carmen Best’s letter.
“Please know that the Seattle Police Department is committed to addressing life safety incidents and calls for service, and responding to ongoing demonstrations and unrest in the city,” the chief’s memo reads. “Please also know that the City Council Ordinance 119805 Crowd Control Tool goes into effect this weekend on Sunday, July 26, 2020. This ordinance bans Seattle Police officers the use of less-lethal tools, including pepper spray that is commonly used to disperse crowds that have turned violent. Simply put, the legislation gives officers no ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd.”
“For these reasons,” Best continued, “Seattle Police will have an adjusted deployment in response to any demonstrations this weekend – as I will never ask our officers to risk their personal safety to protect property without the tools to do so in a safe way.”
In other words, Seattle residents and business owners were largely on their own as demonstrations, taking place across the city Sunday, descended into riots.
Best also said, in the letter, that she’s taken her concerns with the new law to city officials who refuse to acknowledge them.
Best, the Washington Examiner notes, says that she has “done my due diligence of informing them numerous times of the foreseeable impact of this ordinance on upcoming events.”
Last week, Best appeared before the council to plead her case, knowing that demonstrations were planned for last weekend.
“It is a fact that there are groups and individuals who are intent on destruction in our City,” she told Seattle lawmakers. “This weekend we know that several events are planned across the city that will foreseeably involve many of the same violent actors from recent days. There is no reason not to assume we will continue to experience property destruction, arson, looting, and attempts to injure additional officers throughout the weekend and beyond.”
Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, actually backed Best, concerned that “the new law would conflict with an eight-year-old settlement on a policing-overhaul agreement struck between the Seattle Police Department and the U.S. Justice Department” according to Fox News.
Best’s predictions came to pass.
“At least 47 people were arrested on charges of assaulting officers, obstruction, and failure to disperse,” CNN reported Sunday. “Police said 59 officers were injured from having projectiles thrown at them, according to police. The injuries included abrasions, bruising, burns, and a torn meniscus, according to a Sunday press release. Most officers were able to return to duty, the department’s Twitter said. One officer was hospitalized with a leg injury caused by an explosive.”