This afternoon, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and the ACLU submitted to the U.S. District Court their proposal for sanctions that should be imposed on the City of Seattle, following a court ruling earlier this week that the Seattle Police Department had violated an injunction restricting its use of “less lethal” crowd-control weapons.
Judge Richard Jones found four instances from late-summer protests where SPD officers had used blast balls or pepper spray on protesters indiscriminately and/or without provocation, violating his injunction; he therefore ruled that the city was in contempt of court. He gave the plaintiffs until today to propose appropriate sanctions.
The proposal — arguably a tame one — asks for three things:
- SPD must distribute the judge’s order to all officers within two weeks of entry of the forthcoming sanctions order. It must be accompanied by “clear instructions about what conduct is prohibited, that any future occurrence will trigger negative consequences, and what those negative consequences might entail.”
- For the duration of the injunction, whenever SPD officers deploy less-lethal weapons against protesters it must deliver to the plaintiffs within five days a use-of-force report and relevant body-worn-video footage of the event. It must also confer with the plaintiffs as to whether any additional documentary evidence should be handed over.
- The city must pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs.
The Use of Force Report must include: “who deployed the less-lethal weapon, when the deployment occurred, how many less-lethal weapons were deployed, and an explanation by reference to the terms of the Court’s Orders about why the less-lethal weapon was used.” The body-worn video footage must include at least 90 seconds before and after each deployment.
The city will file its response to the proposal by next Friday, then the judge will rule. Expect the city to quibble about the exact list of “less lethal” weapon use that must be reported, since the injunction only lists specific ones but the proposed sanctions do not. It might also try to scope down “relevant” body-worn video — or build in some flexibility into the 5-day deadline, since there might be dozens of officers’ camera footage that needs to be reviewed and edited for each incident and there may be multiple instances of less-lethal weapon use at a protest.
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How does all of this square with the content of the Opinion issued by the Washington Supreme Court in the recall of the mayor?
For instance, from the opinion:
[ However, the record indicates that in many, if not most or all, instances, the individuals who “assaulted officers, set fire to police and citizen vehicles, smashed windows of and looted numerous businesses throughout the downtown core, and otherwise caused extensive mayhem and property damage” were not the protesters at all but, instead, “appeared to be unaffiliated with the peaceful march.” ]
I would think that the Washington Supreme Court’s opinion could be used to show that the department’s actions were not done in bad faith.
It’s hard to say. The ruling also calls the accusations “alarming” and says that people need to be held accountable.
But keep in mind that the Court wasn’t assessing whether the accusations were true and the evidence credible.
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