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Seattle repercussions -The World's Still Watching-

Embattled police chief resigns

Tuesday, December 7, 1999


Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper says he is resigning and that he takes
full responsibility for the riots that disrupted the World Trade
Organization meeting and brought chaos to the city's streets.

Stamper sent a letter yesterday to Mayor Paul Schell announcing his
decision to step down as head of the city's 1,800-member force at the end
of March, ending his six-year tenure as chief. Schell accepted the

The move, Stamper said, is designed to "depoliticize" the chief's job as
the City Council, American Civil Liberties Union and others prepare to
investigate the department's actions during the WTO meeting.

"I think in making this announcement, I've taken my tenure off the table.
I will be leaving the Seattle Police Department," he said in an exclusive
interview with the Post-Intelligencer.

He said he will stay through March so that he can help investigators sort
out how and why police lost control of the demonstrations and can speak
freely in doing so.

"I think it's poor form to just walk away, especially at a time when we're
involved in some intensive review of last week's experience," he said.

Stamper said he had made up his mind last month that he would announce his
retirement in January. But the events of last week changed his timetable.

"The irony is that I'll be leaving (the chief's job) two months later than
I expected to," he said during the 90-minute interview.

In accepting the chief's resignation, Schell called Stamper an effective
but unpopular leader who was misunderstood by rank-and-file officers.

"I think he's been a great chief and I tried to talk him out of it. . . .
He's a man of absolute integrity," Schell said last night. "Anybody who is
a change agent faces the challenge of being effective but not necessarily
popular. That comes at a price. But history (will) judge him with a kind

Stamper's decision caps a scandal-filled year that began with allegations
that a Seattle homicide detective stole $10,000 from a crime scene and
culminated last week as outnumbered police officers fired tear gas, pepper
spray and rubber pellets at WTO demonstrators in downtown streets.

Seattle police and law enforcement officials outside the department --
including King County Sheriff Dave Reichert -- complained bitterly that
Stamper and Schell were not prepared to handle the thousands of protesters
who descended on the city for the WTO meeting.

As a result, WTO delegates were placed at risk, the meeting was disrupted,
violence spilled out of downtown into the residential Capitol Hill
neighborhood, downtown businesses sustained more than $2 million in damage
and the city's retail core lost millions more dollars from lost sales at
the height of the Christmas shopping season.

On Wednesday night, police officers yanked Seattle City Councilman Richard
McIver from his car as he tried to drive into a restricted area.

McIver, who is black, said the officers ignored his business card, and he
said the incident highlights problems in how the department deals with
people of color.

Moreover, police officers complained loudly and publicly that the failure
to anticipate violence left their ranks so thin that they could not do
their jobs. Many said they were dangerously tired while on the front lines
for nearly 20 hours without food, backup support or enough tear gas and
pepper spray.

"I certainly do accept full responsibility that our officers did not get
all the support they needed and deserve," Stamper said. "As the chief,
it's fundamentally important for people to understand that we knew this
was going to be big. We knew that there was a potential for violence and
destructive behavior."

Stamper acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the mayhem on
Seattle's streets Tuesday nearly caused President Clinton to cancel his
trip to the city to speak to WTO delegates.

"We all had a very serious conversation about whether all the venues the
president would visit were secure," Stamper said.

Stamper, visibly relaxed and confident during the interview, denied that
politics had played a role in tactical decisions for handling the

But he acknowledged that the department -- and the city -- had tried to
negotiate with the protesters rather than confront them.

He said Assistant Chief Ed Joiner directed the tactical response to
demonstrators practicing civil disobedience while negotiating behind the
scenes with protest group leaders.

"Some of the leaders of the various demonstration factions were not able
to deliver," Stamper said. "In other words, they were dealing with the
wild card of demonstrators who are not part of their particular group, and
who are not playing by the rules."

Stamper said police faced squirt guns filled with urine, chunks of
concrete and soda pop cans filled with gasoline.

"The anarchists used techniques downtown that they were trained for,"
Stamper said. "They integrated themselves into peaceful demonstrators.
They made it very clear to us that if we were going to get to them, we
were going to have to come through people who were not destructive and

"One protest leader reported to us that he saw anarchists change clothes
three times a day to avoid detection."

Stamper said the Seattle Police Department -- and police officers called
in from King County and elsewhere -- were trained and prepared to handle
unruly and even violent protests. But they just did not have the numbers
to cope with tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Cities like New York, with nearly 40,000 officers, and Chicago, with
15,000 officers, "can pour two to three to four times the number of
officers that we can into those venues for dignitary protection," he said.

Seattle could not match those forces. "Even with mutual aid, looking at
the entire state of Washington, we're asking other law enforcement
agencies to literally strip their streets."

The National Guard eventually sent in 300 unarmed troops and the
Washington State Patrol sent another 300 armed troopers after the violence
broke out Tuesday. But they did not arrive until Wednesday morning.

Schell said he was disappointed that Stamper was leaving under a cloud.
The chief, he said, had hoped to walk away from the job after guiding the
city successfully through the WTO and the arrival of the year 2000.

"But it's his life," Schell said. "And it's not going to be fun for the
next six months."

Stamper said he was under no pressure from the mayor to announce his
retirement earlier. He said he informed Deputy Mayor Maud Daudon of his
intentions Saturday. She arranged a meeting Sunday with Schell.

"I said this is categorical, it's unequivocal," Stamper said. "Does this
look like the face of somebody who's indecisive about his decision?

"I think I have a responsibility to stick around and answer questions
about WTO. It's no secret that there are officers who believe that they
didn't get as much support for this as they needed and deserved, and I
want to hear any and all concerns and answer every question that I can.
"But I also want to be a part of systematically critiquing and debriefing
the WTO experience."

In Vancouver, B.C., where police employed similar means to curtail looting
and violence during protests against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
forum held there in 1997, public hearings into whether the police
responded appropriately are still going on.

Second-guessing takes time, said Vancouver Police Department Inspector Ken
Doern, a specialist in crowd control.

Outside of WTO, Stamper said he hopes his legacy will be his advocacy of
community policing, a concept some officers resisted and some community
members have misunderstood.

"Community policing is not a touchy-feely police strategy," the chief said
yesterday with a tinge of frustration. "That kind of a term attached to
policing or my leadership position is kind of evidence of lazy journalism.

"Community policing is very tough to pull off. . . . And when it works, it
sets the stage for the next phase of community policing, which is a deeper
and deeper commitment" to working closely with the community.

In Schell's three-paragraph letter accepting the chief's resignation, the
mayor credited Stamper's community policing formula for plummeting crime
rates. And he praised the chief's unwavering focus on improving the
department's record of civil rights.

"Under your leadership, our police department and its citizen partners
have accomplished a great deal," Schell said. "Crime is down. Ours is the
best domestic violence response police force in the country. Citizen
complaints are down by two-thirds in your six years.

"You stood firm against racism, sexism, and homophobia. Human rights are
stronger in our department and across our community because of you."

Since he arrived in Seattle in February 1994 after having been executive
assistant police chief for San Diego, Stamper has taken an active and
visible role in Seattle's diverse neighborhoods.

He was a regular marcher in the annual Gay Pride Parade. He also met
regularly with representatives of the city's minority communities and
invited controversy by speaking frankly about his own experience as a
rookie cop who witnessed and participated in police abuse of civil rights.

Tuesday, December 7, 1999

Angry City Council to review Schell's handling of WTO


The protests and concussion bombs on the streets of Seattle may have
quieted down, but City Council members are now seething, and are demanding
to know more about the Schell administration's handling of the WTO

Three City Council members will serve as a task force to figure out how
Seattle's international coming-out party turned sour.

Indicative of the tensions between the council and Mayor Paul Schell,
Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski predicted the review could find that Schell
and Police Chief Norm Stamper lied about the use of strong police tactics.

Though Schell is calling on the city to begin healing, even he was still
trying to figure out what went wrong.

Schell yesterday asked city officials who were responsible for security
during last week's conference for a "thorough and expeditious" review of
their planning and the response to protesters.

Headed by Assistant Chief of Police Ed Joyner, Schell's review will likely
be greeted with some skepticism. Indeed, Joyner seemed to be defending
himself even in announcing that the review would take place.

"Our police tactics evolved in a measured fashion in response to
increasing threats to the safety of everyone in the downtown core. Now
that the crisis has passed, we want to look at all of the facts and
understand exactly what happened," he said.

Asked if the public would accept the self-review, Schell spokesman Bob
Royer said, "I hope not. . . . Our intent is to take a deep breath and
start figuring out all of the events and lay it out for the public."

While the internal review takes place, the City Council will cast what is
expected to be a more critical eye at the actions of the mayor and of

Some council members said they are deeply angry at the Schell
administration, so much so that it spurred some humor yesterday.

Councilman Richard McIver, who was handcuffed by police when he tried to
enter a WTO function last week, saw Councilman Jim Compton hobbling on
crutches in City Hall yesterday after undergoing knee surgery for an old

"Did you run into the police too?" McIver quipped

Even before Stamper announced he was quitting for the first time, a public
official, Councilwoman-elect Judy Nicastro, suggested he resign.

"What I'm asking is that the chief seriously consider whether the
community can move on with him as the police chief," said Nicastro, who
takes office next month.

McIver and others said they would await the findings of the council's own
investigation before passing judgment.

Privately, though, council members blame Schell and Stamper's "arrogance
and naivete," for a catastrophic week for the city. And some said it was
indicative of a mayor who arrived from the public sector and is used to
getting his own way.

Council members say they were left out of planning for the conference,
starting with the decision to invite the group. Many questioned Schell and
Stamper's reported rejection of Secret Service and FBI advice on how to
prevent last week's mayhem -- a charge Schell denies.

Reflecting how the city's handling of the WTO has further strained
relations with the mayor, council members said they'll make their own

Though the council opted to wait until next week to formally create the
panel, yesterday they named Councilmen Nick Licata, Richard Conlin and Jim
Compton to it. No date was set for when the group would finish its work,
but Licata guessed it would wrap up no later than the end of March. Royer
said it's not known when the mayor's review would be finished.

Podlodowski took the council's mistrust toward the mayor a step further,
demanding the council give its WTO Accountability Task Force subpoena

"That's going to be the real test to see if they're serious about finding
out what happened," Podlodowski said. "With it, I think we're going to
find out a lot of their explanations have been false."

The city attorney and council members are now trying to determine if the
council has subpoena power,

Among the questions council members want answered: Whether police knew of
the extent of protests planned, and if they did, why reinforcements
weren't called earlier.

Licata also said he wants to know how many tear gas canisters were dropped
-- particularly on Capitol Hill -- who authorized their use and whether
use of the gas was abused.

While harshly critical of Schell's handling of the riots, the council
voted 6-3 to ratify the state of emergency he imposed last week. Failing
to back Schell could have jeopardized federal assistance, as well as
criminal cases pending against hundreds arrested.

But more than a dozen people, some with tape over their mouths to
illustrate the stifling of free speech, complained to City Council members
about police conduct. The City Council will hold an open forum at 4 p.m.
tomorrow in the downtown Seattle Library to collect testimony about the
city's handling of the WTO gathering.

In a related move yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union of
Washington renewed its call for an independent investigative panel.

"The city's handling of the protests raised many concerns," said Kathleen
Taylor, executive director of the organization. "They banned citizens from
a 20-block area . . . designed to prohibit all forms of political

The ACLU also is concerned about the level of force used by police, Taylor

At the King County Courthouse, County Council members yesterday thanked 12
law enforcement representatives and handed them framed proclamations
recognizing their efforts during the emergency.


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