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Improper use of ruse by Seattle police during 2020 protests 'unacceptable,' Mayor Harrell says

On June 8, 2020, Seattle police falsely reported information over scanner traffic.

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell says it is "unacceptable" that police falsely reported activity over scanner traffic in a high profile incident and that current police Chief Adrian Diaz knew about it for several months. 

In a wide-ranging, hour long press conference Wednesday at Seattle City Hall, Harrell addressed the controversy that didn't really flare up until last week.

An independent investigation determined that the Seattle Police Department's (SPD) command staff signed off on the ruse to broadcast information that the Proud Boys were coming to the Capitol Hill Occupied Zone, or CHOP, on June 8, 2020 for a confrontation. The actions were brought to light after Omari Salisbury, a journalist for Converge Media, raised questions with the Office of Police Accountability, and helped to track down the audio transmissions. The office found no evidence of Proud Boy activity.

Harrell, in his first significant press conference as mayor, at one point looked at Diaz and said "to the police department, help me build trust. Communities don't trust you." The two noticeably stood apart. Diaz stared at the floor for most of the media availability.

Harrell was joined by his council colleague Lisa Herbold in suggesting that an examination of existing laws are needed. The ruse was legal by definition, and Harrell said it can be used for good reasons, such as to combat internet crimes against children.

But in this case, the city's new mayor seemed angry that SPD used the ruse at such a emotional and turbulent time - in the wake of Georg Floyd's murder.

"In fact, it would seem to me, if we look at the history of violence in this country, look at the the chilling effect that the mentioning of the Proud Boys has on the community, particularly the Black community, when we look at the issue of violence that has occurred in this city. It is unacceptable," Harrell said.

Harrell said Diaz, who was not in charge of the department at the time, acknowledged he knew about the ruse internally, "perhaps a few days or so," after it happened, and that it was "completely unacceptable" that it took 18 months for the issue to become public.

The mayor also thanked Salisbury publicly, "This is what journalism, and tenacity and a commitment to many communities looks like in my eyes. And so, with that, I want to say thank you."

Harrell said throughout the press conference that Diaz could say very little for due process and legal reasons, but the chief did make a short statement saying, "I have to apologize for those impacts that we created" by the ruse and the actions of the department on Capitol Hill.

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