Report details SPD mistakes in response to 2012 May Day riot

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by NATALIE SWABY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @NSwabyKing5

KING5.com

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 10:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 10 at 11:26 PM

SEATTLE -- A review by last year's May Day Incident Commander, Captain Joe Kessler, criticized the handling of the protests. Kessler said the intelligence about people wanting to harm the city was there ahead of time, but the department's response was flawed.

KING 5 obtained a copy of the Incident Commander's Review through a public disclosure request. Kessler wrote that on May Day 2012 they were significantly understaffed. There were also mixed messages about whether or not pepper spray could be used which led to confusion, according to the review.

In downtown Seattle on May 1st, demonstrators broke windows and spray painted cars. Kessler wrote that anarchists armed with rocks, sticks and other makeshift weapons did damage to businesses. Members of the unruly crowd wore masks and shouted threats at police. 

Kessler's review stated he was Incident Commander, but claimed Assistant Chief Mike Sanford took control at times, causing confusion.

Kessler stated that Sanford wanted plainclothes officers in the crowd to find troublemakers. Kessler wrote that he told Sanford he was 'uncomfortable going live with untested tactics,' and Sanford reportedly replied, 'to do the best we could.'

The review goes on to state that SWAT supervisors did not want the team wearing plainclothes. SWAT returned to the office to change into their gear creating a significant delay.

The violent vandalism on May Day started just before noon and lasted for a few hours. At one point Sanford, dressed in a white shirt and black slacks, rushed into the crowd after an anarchist, according to Kessler. The review stated officers had to help Sanford as protestors became unruly.

Seattle police said after Kessler's review, the department decided they needed an unbiased report and turned to former LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Hillman.

In Hillman's independent review he found police officers performed admirably demonstrating professionalism, but noted there appeared to be an inability to protect the downtown core. Hillman provided the police department with 38 recommendations.

Kate Joncas, the President of the Downtown Seattle Association called on police to do a complete review after so many businesses were damaged last year. She was pleased the department brought in the outside consultant.

"I thought the report was quite thorough in terms of saying here's what didn't work and here is what we need to do going forward. So we have a clear to do list for the next May 1st," said Joncas.

Seattle police said they have learned from what went right and what went wrong last year. Training is already underway for this May Day.

 

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