Seattle Chief of Police Carmen Best advised her city’s business owners and residents that local police will not “risk their personal safety to protect property” after a ban issued by the city council of “less lethal tools” — such as pepper spray — for the purposes dispersing crowds to control rioters.
Best (pictured) issued her warning in a letter on Friday:
Dear Business Owner and/or Resident:
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.
Please also know that the City Council Ordinance 119805 Crowd Control Tool goes into effect this weekend on July 26, 020. This ordinance bans Seattle Police officers [from using] 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.
It is important to bring to your attention that yesterday, I sent the City Council a letter ensuring them that as the Chief of Police, I have done my due diligence of informing them them numerous times of the foreseeable impact of this ordinance on upcoming events. The letter is attached for your reference.
For these reasons, 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.
Chief of Police
The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York shared Best’s letter via Twitter:
Seattle police send message to businesses, residents. There are riots. City council banned use of pepper spray, other crowd control agents. So now, we have 'NO ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd.' Shorter: You're on your own. pic.twitter.com/ZLzg1VToeV
— Byron York (@ByronYork) July 27, 2020
Seattle police “cannot manage demonstrations as we have in the past” given the city council’s banning of “less-lethal tools,” Best wrote on Thursday in a letter to the city’s councilmembers.
Seattle should expect more “property destruction, arson, looting, and attempts to injure additional officers,” predicted Best. In her letter to Seattle’s councilmembers, she added:
Some have asked why officers are not arresting those engaging in criminal behavior, as officers do every day, and as they have in recent protests. If it is safe to do so, and even when it places their lives in danger, our officers always directly address criminal behavior. They do this, however, when they know they have the tools shown to allow the safe use of their policing powers. This Council ordinance denies them access to these tools that have been an essential part of their court-approved tactics.
We have clear, court-mandated procedures for arresting individuals, grounded in the principles of deescalation. SPD’s de-escalation principles are premised on the expectation, consistent with policy and best practices, that officers have the full array of approved tools. In large crowds, there is no safe way for officers to effect arrests when their colleagues do not have the tools necessary to protect them.
As City Council’s legislation goes into effect, it will create even more dangerous circumstances for our officers to intervene using what they have left – riot shields and riot batons.
For these reasons, SPD will have an adjusted deployment in response to any demonstrations this weekend. The Council legislation gives officers no ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd. Allowing this behavior deeply troubles me, but I am duty-bound to follow the Council legislation once it is in effect. If the Council is prepared to suggest a different response or interpretation of the legislation, I stand ready to receive it.
The Seattle Police Department has closed its counter services and precinct facilities indefinitely, ostensibly to “mitigate the impact of COVID-19.”
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