On Tuesday, the News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) ran as its top local story a piece on Monday's meeting of the Citizen Review Panel, the third of the newly formed panel.  --  At the end of the 5:30 p.m. meeting, the panel allowed public comment, which was dominated by criticism leveled at police policies, practices, and procedures on display at last month's demonstrations at the Port of Tacoma.[1]  --  The News Tribune noted that the Tacoma Police Department's "crowd-control policies haven’t been updated since 1993."  --  The News Tribune noted remarks by Tim Smith ("gave the panel rules other cities have made about the use of nonlethal force"), Linda Frank ("wondered why the city rang up a bill of $500,000 to police the demonstrations, when she said similar protests in Olympia cost that city much less . . . And who made the decision for police to shoot into a crowd of protesters sitting on the ground singing?"), Nikki Vance ("[police videotaping protesters] was very intimidating to me"), a speaker "who identified himself only as John Doe" ("called for an investigation into information sharing, if any, between the police and the Department of Homeland Security"), Dan Blakely ("brought up the issue of police not letting , and suggested the department amend its policy to allow [demonstrators to film the protests]"), Heidi Stephens ("reviewing police crowd control information handed out at the meeting, noted how all the material was about force escalation, and suggested the police need to focus on de-escalation techniques, similar to what is used with the mentally ill"); "another speaker reminded the board of the recent settlement against the city of Seattle for its handling of the World Trade Organization protests as a cautionary tale for what’s at stake in Tacoma."  --  "There were just two defenders of the police at the Monday meeting," M. Alexander Otto noted.  --  Readers can still vote in the News Tribune's online poll on "Who should pay the bill for police overtime and other costs stemming from last month's anti-war protests at the Port of Tacoma?"  --  "Troadje" posted this comment online:  "Arguing that the demonstrators should pay for the enormous expenses generated by the Tacoma Police Department relies upon some interesting assumptions.  Firstly, it assumes that the demonstrators were acting illegally.  Secondly, it assumes that the large police presence was necessary.  Thirdly, it assumes that all of the police expenses (like those for spent rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray) were justified — that is, that the police use of these weapons, and the police violence in general, was warranted.  Fourthly, it assumes that what was being protected (U.S. military escalation in the illegal war in Iraq) was legally entitled to protection.  Fifthly, there is a very interesting assumption that the cost of disciplining and restraining popular political activity should be born by those who are disciplined and restricted by the police (state).  Finally, this argument asumes that the Tacoma Police Department acted lawfully in attacking non-violent demonstrators with violence, in videotaping law-abiding protesters when they were not committing crimes, in banning backpacks and purses from public spaces, and in criminalizing the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly." ...


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Local news

PANEL GETS EARFUL ON PROTEST
By M. Alexander Otto

** Some witnesses say police need new policies on use of nonlethal force **

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 3, 2007
Page B1

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/6447244p-5744380c.html

The Tacoma Police Department needs to update its rules on the use of nonlethal force to control crowds, the department’s Citizen Review Panel was told Monday night as it met to discuss March’s anti-war protests at the Port of Tacoma.

That was just one of several suggestions the board heard, most of them from people who witnessed or participated in the 12 days of demonstrations against shipping troops and equipment to Iraq through Tacoma.

Although the department’s procedures are continually evolving, its crowd-control policies haven’t been updated since 1993.

Ultimately, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to control the crowd, tactics the speakers Monday night said were over the line.

It was the protesters’ turn to talk Monday. Several police officers were in the halls outside of the meeting, but they did not offer to give their side of the story.

The panel is considering policy recommendations in the wake of the protests in March. It’s struggling to find the line where maintaining public peace crosses over into suppression of free speech, one member said.

Meanwhile, a report on the events is being prepared, said assistant city attorney Michael Smith, who did not know when it would be complete.

Panel members got an earful Monday night, in addition to calls for new ground rules and greater accountability in the use of nonlethal force.

Timothy Smith, one of about 10 speakers, gave the panel rules other cities have made about the use of nonlethal force.

Linda Frank wondered why the city rang up a bill of $500,000 to police the demonstrations, when she said similar protests in Olympia cost that city much less.

“It was extremely intimidating to me to see the vast numbers of riot police there,” she said, wondering who ordered such a heavy presence.

“And who made the decision for police to shoot into a crowd of protesters sitting on the ground singing?” she asked, echoing concerns of others at the meeting.

Some speakers brought up the issue of the police videotaping protesters, and wondered where those videotapes might eventually wind up.

“The was very intimidating to me,” said Nicki Vance, a University of Puget Sound Student.

One speaker, who identified himself only as John Doe, called for an investigation into information sharing, if any, between the police and the Department of Homeland Security.

Dan Blakely brought up the issue of police not letting demonstrators film the protests, and suggested the department amend its policy to allow that.

“I cannot think of a time when that should not be the case,” he said.

Heidi Stephens, reviewing police crowd control information handed out at the meeting, noted how all the material was about force escalation, and suggested the police need to focus on de-escalation techniques, similar to what is used with the mentally ill.

One speaker reminded the board of the recent settlement against the city of Seattle for its handling of the World Trade Organization protests as a cautionary tale for what’s at stake in Tacoma.

There were just two defenders of the police at the Monday meeting.

One man, who identified himself only as T. Deccio, said the police do a very good job, and noted that crowd control is dangerous.

“I’d like to see them get credit” for that, he said.

--M. Alexander Otto: 253-597-8616 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.