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Police Officials Resign

by Paul de Armond

Seattle police organizations launched a massive PR blitz
The final act of the WTO protests was the announced departures of Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, strategic commander Assistant Chief Ed Joiner, Nancy McPherson, civilian director of the Community and Information Services, and Assistant Chief of Investigations, Harve Fergusson. Those who made public statements regarding their resignations or retirements said that the decisions had been made before the WTO protests. Joiner plans to leave in March, the same month that Stamper said he would depart. Fergusson is scheduled to retire in February and McPherson in June. Chief Stamper stated that one purpose of announcing his resignation was to "de-politicize" the investigations into police actions during the protests and "in making this announcement, I've taken my tenure off the table." The departures of the other polices officials were virtually ignored in the media, though they represent the departure of three out of seven of the chief's highest-ranking assistants. In February, Chief Stamper departed, a month earlier than initially announced.

Teargas cloud Immediately after the protests, the Seattle police organizations launched a massive public-relations blitz. In one of the more bizarre actions, police officers began shaking down local merchants through the sales of T-shirts -- as if the police had won some sort of a major victory. Uniformed officers delivered boxes of the shirts to Dutch Ned's Bar in Pioneer Square. The shirts show the Space Needle engulfed in a tornado and say "Battle in Seattle WTO 99." Mike Edwards, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said that money from the T-shirt sales will be used to buy merchandise from downtown merchants and the items purchased will be given to charities. The Guild also organized a rally to show support for the police. State Rep. Luke Esser, a conservative "law and order" advocate, issued a statement saying that he would be attending the police rally "commending those brave men and women for working around the clock in treacherous conditions to maintain law and order during the WTO riots." The Seattle Times ran a variety of pro-cop articles, including one front-page headline announcing the retirement of a police dog.

And the police department began writing letters of commendation for actions during the protests. "We're hearing stories from throughout the department of heroism and courageousness," said Lisa Ross, a spokeswoman for Chief Stamper. Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Kimberly Wilson described some of these stories as "surreal," citing the case of Sgt. Mike Coombs. Coombs saw a guard escorting a foreign dignitary draw a handgun when confronted by protesters, an act that would normally be considered assault with a deadly weapon. As the guard threatened the protesters, some tried to grab the guard's gun arm. Coombs sprayed the protesters with pepper-spray and hustled the delegation away from the protesters. His quick thinking probably saved lives, said Lt. Neil Low, who is writing the commendation letter. The actions by other officers deserving commendation have not been disclosed.

On a more realistic note, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild and Amnesty International announced that they were investigating the events in Seattle. The ACLU intends to file lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the city's emergency ordinance and addressing police misconduct. The National Lawyers Guild is collecting statements about police brutality from people who were arrested. Amnesty International is looking into "widespread police abuses" against protesters, including "indiscriminant use" of chemical agents, rubber and wooden projectiles, "flashbang" grenades, beatings of prisoners in jail, threats of rape during strip searches, and the use of "four-point restraint chairs" in the jail. The mayor's office issued a statement saying, "At this time, we have no indication that any events such as those described by Amnesty International ever occurred." The Seattle Weekly has published stories substantiating reports of jail beatings and other charges by Amnesty International. The investigations are expected to continue for several months.

NEXT: Aftermath

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Albion Monitor February 29, 2000 (

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