WERE THE POLICE ADEQUATELY PREPARED FOR WTO?
THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES!
WERE SEATTLE POLICE OFFICERS PROPERLY TRAINED?
During their exhaustive investigation, the attorneys for Life has Meaning, (led by Seattle civil-rights attorney John Scannell), obtained the Instruction Certification Manuals used by the City of Seattle to train SPD instructors in the use of so-called “less lethal weapons.” These manuals were produced by Armor Holdings, Inc, which manufactured the weapons used by the SPD during the WTO demonstrations. According to these training manuals, the use of “less lethal weapons” requires that a predefined Standard Operating Procedure be followed, formulation of which involves the careful examination of a defined set of criteria by experienced tactical team members who, on the basis of their findings, determine how the weapons are to be utilized, and clearly articulate the plan to all team members. According the training manual, this plan must then be approved by the Chief of Police.
The City of Seattle was eventually forced to admit that it had failed to formulate, adopt or implement any such Standard Operating Procedure. In direct contravention of the manufacturer’s explicit safety instructions, the City of Seattle negligently allowed its police officers to use these weapons without any formal guidelines or restrictions.WAS THE PUBLIC ADEQUATELY WARNED OF THE DANGERS POSED BY “LESS LETHAL” WEAPONS?
During the course of the lawsuit, Life has Meaning’s attorneys obtained a training video that was used by the Seattle Police Department to warn its officers of the serious dangers posed by so-called “less lethal” weapons. Officer Burns, (who, along with Dermody, was one of the six police officers at Second and Stewart when Life Has Meaning was shot), was the training officer who appeared in this instructional video.
[View the SPD training video here]. (Real Player required)
Copyright 2001 by Copwatch.com
The video informed officers that the chemical-weapon canisters they would be shooting into the crowds were superheated to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. The officers were warned not to touch the canisters, since there had been numerous cases in which demonstrators burned their fingers off when they tried to throw the canisters away from the crowed.
Police officers were also told that the microscopic structure of the chemical gases resembled miniature fishhooks. The police officers were warned that any clothing which came in contact with these gases had to be washed several times before being rendered safe to wear again. They were further told that these substances would even contaminate the washing machines themselves, and that the machines had to be run through at least two complete cycles, empty, before these toxic substances would be diluted to a safe level.
No such warnings were provided to the public. At the present time, it is uncertain how many innocent citizens suffer from chronic health problems as a result of continuous exposure to residual chemical agents which have contaminated their clothing, bedding, towels, and linens. It is entirely possible that the ultimate impact of this situation will eventually resemble, in its pervasiveness, subtlety, and official disregard, “Gulf War Syndrome”, which is still unrecognized by the government. CENTRAL ISSUE UNRESOLVED: WHICH OFFICER SHOT LIFE HAS MEANING? SPD DEPLOYED ANONYMOUSLY
This case was complicated by the difficulty in ascertaining which officer was responsible for shooting Life has Meaning. Identifying the officer to blame was of crucial importance because in order for liability to attach under federal civil rights statutes, the plaintiff is required to prove individual liability on the part of an identifiable officer. This task was rendered virtually impossible by the anonymous manner in which the police were deployed. Seattle Police Chief Norman Stamper acknowledged under oath that none of the hundreds of officers employed during the WTO debacle were required to wear identifying badges or numbers, or even any uniform that identified them as members of the Seattle Police Department. As might be expected, the five officers who were present during the assault on Life Has Meaning would not admit to knowing anything at all regarding the identity of the perpetrator. One of those officers, Michael Gerloff, could not even be located-- he mysteriously parted company with the Police Department, and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Further complicating matters was the boost in regard enjoyed by the police in the aftermath of September 11th. As the country was daily encouraged to regard all police as heroes, Life has Meaning’s attorneys became concerned that the jury pool would be unfairly biased toward the police. Given the political climate, it seemed more prudent to accept the City’s offer than to proceed to trial.