Members present: CMs Herbold, Lewis, Morales, and Sawant.
Virtual Meeting Highlights:
Public input seemed adequate. People called in and were given 2 minutes to speak. Everyone who wanted to speak had an opportunity. (Note: There was a discussion about operation of regional emergency radio system that League Observer did not watch.)
Presentation by Shayleen Morris, Community Policing Commission
Discussed CPC recommendations on crowd dispersal and less lethal weapons (see report). Stressed the importance of community-centered review process.
(1) What would community-centered process look like,
(2) Re: Recommendations 3 and 4—who is “the City” referring to in terms of who should take responsibility for these actions, and
(3) Who should the independent reviewing agency be?
Response often comes from agency level first. Community is already driving the work, have been demanding a seat at the table. “The City” includes SPD, Council, and Mayor’s Office, although SPD is the one who will be implementing change in their culture and being held accountable. Community is at center of decision-making. CPC has been listening to the community. They are an independent agency making a community-centered decision on this.
CM Sawant—Council and Mayor have obligations to listen to community and act on their concerns. Crowd control weapons ban is an example of this. Should revisions in policy manual be made in accordance with the crowd control weapons ban?
Revision of use of force policies should comply with ordinances. Overhaul of manual with community members’ input –need to do a deep dive with consideration of what has happened in the last few months.
CM Herbold—Written questions from other Councilmembers:
(1) Should flash bangs be used? (v. blast balls) (blast balls aren’t as bad but have been outlawed).
CM Mosqueda—Confirmation re recommendation to eliminate tear gas and blast balls; recommendation re what to do in the interim before they’re eliminated and a determination is to made re unlawful assemblies.
Recommendation against tear gas and blast balls in 2015 said the ban should start immediately. Even more so now with the pandemic. Use of weapons during protected assemblies should be limited to situations involving imminent harm to people.
Presentation by Andrew Myerberg, Dir. of Office of Police Accountability (OPA)
Discussed Crowd Control Weapons (see report). All less-lethal tools should be authorized for non-crowd control. SWAT should be able to use tear gas but should not be available to patrol.
If protests are against law enforcement, cops should minimize their presence—otherwise, they are exacerbating the problem.
CM Sawant—What has OPA actually done to hold officers accountable?
Haven’t issued any findings yet (87 cases). First findings should be issued next Friday.
Ordinance passed by City Council was too broad.
Didn’t find Sawant’s line of questioning helpful to addressing the issue of what less lethal weapons should be used. Believes OPA is independent. Confirms that OPA believes status quo isn’t working. Need clarification on use of force to prevent property damage.
Answer: Blast balls may be appropriate, but not to prevent property damage. They are okay to use to move a crowd back if cops are getting injured by rocks thrown, etc., but should only be rolled on ground to create space, not thrown at people.
OPA agrees that community needs to be involved in the process. Okay to have executive approval for riot declaration but concern about Mayor’s office making tactical decisions.
CM Herbold—Written questions from other members
(1) How do we define categories for use of less lethal, by situation or by group (i.e. SWAT)?
(3) Clarification re use of blast balls
CM Morales—What info do we have about how many times riots were declared and specific weapons were used? Clarified interest in use of non-lethal weapons in stationary (as opposed to moving) crowd.
Answer: Acknowledged that regular tactics don’t work in static crowds—need to develop better tactics. They can track info about who used force, when, and where to identify trends.
CM Herbold—Is it appropriate for accountability partners to make recommendations just based on what they’ve seen from all the protests as opposed to responding to specific complaints? Why did cops create issues on Labor Day by continuing to escalate situations? How do we stop this??
Answer: They do communicate with each other and SPD in real time, but SPD apparently is not listening. Community not satisfied with being told to file a report when nothing changes.
Presentation by Inspector General Lisa Judge, Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
Discussed OIG crowd dispersal recommendations (see report). They have identified actions that can be taken today.
CM Mosqueda—Response to protests against use of excessive force was to use excessive force. Clarification about cause and effect?
Answer: There were instances of excessive force. Mission of SPD seemed to change. They didn’t expect level of anger at cops. Culture has to acknowledge this anger.
Officials and Guests in Attendance
CMs Lewis, Morales, Sawant, Herbold, Gonzales. All present were prepared and engaged.
Accessing the Meeting and Materials
The meeting started on time. I left early, before the new members of the CPC were appointed. The meeting was easily accessible and I was able to review a copy of the agenda beforehand.
Summary of Discussion
The agenda was followed.
The meeting opened with public comment; most people testified in favor of keeping the ban on crowd control weapons passed by the City Council last year (and subsequently rejected by Judge Robards pursuant to the Consent Decree as being overly broad).
Recommendations from Oversight Agencies
The Committee then discussed recommendations from the Community Police Commission (CPC), Office of Inspector General (OIG), and Office of Police Accountability (OPA). These oversight agencies each made recommendations in three use categories (patrol, tactical/SWAT, and crowd dispersal) for five different types of less lethal weapons (tear gas, pepper spray, blast balls, 40 mm launcher, and flash diversionary devices (flash bangs)).
There were a few areas of consensus—all agencies agreed that pepper spray, the 40mm launcher, and flash bangs do not need to be banned for non-crowd control uses. And all agreed that tear gas should not be used on patrol.
Chair Herbold noted that:
An ordinance has been drafted that includes the areas of agreement among the oversight agencies, and it will be modified following the discussion at the hearing, with a potential committee vote on a new proposed ordinance at the next meeting on Jan. 26.