In a story that's made the rounds today, the Seattle Times reports that an internal memo intended for Seattle Police Chief John Diaz "suggests flawed planning contributed to widespread violence and vandalism," on May Day. But the most curious part of the story is undoubtedly the described actions of Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford.
According to the Times story, which cites "department sources familiar with the matter," several of Sanford's May Day decisions have been called into question, including a bizarre reaction in which Sanford is said to have run into the May Day melee, dressed in a white shirt and minus police identification, to make an arrest.
From the Times story:
A large part of the criticism has focused on Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford and his role in managing the city's response to the marches, including his sudden decision to rush into the downtown crowd to make an arrest, without protective gear. Officers clad in riot gear had to help pull him from a hostile crowd, diverting police resources from the increasingly violent noontime march that left store and car windows smashed.
When vandalism began, a command van moved into place to begin deploying supervisors and officers, according to the sources.
But Sanford, in a white shirt, dark pants and dress shoes and without visible police identification, sprinted past the van and into the crowd, with officers running behind, the sources said.
His actions required officers to come to his aid when he was assaulted. Sanford's action also put officers in the position of possibly having to use force, the sources said.
Todays' story from the Times comes in the wake of Sanford's recent reassignment, temporarily moving from overseeing the Patrol Operations Bureau to a full-time position implementing the city's "20/20" plan. Diaz tells the Times that Sanford's reassignment was "absolutely not" related to his handling of the May 1 protest.
In addition to his aforementioned questionable heroics, the Times story indicates other decisions Sanford made on May Day while orchestrating SPD's response to the protests have been called out. Included in these now-questioned commands, Sanford is said to have developed a plan that, according to the Times' sources, "while reasonable on paper, never had been subjected to testing or training," and included the placement of plain-clothes undercover officers in the crowd to identify potential troublemakers, as well as asking SWAT officer to go undercover in the crowd - a plan that was apparently bagged at the last minute when a SWAT commander protested, noting his officers had no training in such tactics.
The story also indicates concerns were raised over the number of officers assigned to the protest.
On top of all of this, apparently Sanford's instructions on the use of pepper spray on May Day have also been highlighted as questionable. The Times' sources indicate Sanford originally gave the go-ahead for officers to use pepper spray to protect themselves or other officers, or to prevent vandals from gaining entry to buildings, but at the last minute Sanford is said to have changed courses, ordering "tight restrictions" on the use of pepper spray, and indicating that there were to be no arrests made in the crowd (unless, it seems, he was the one making it).
From the Times:
Officers responded with stunned confusion, the sources said.
Which, after reading the story, is probably the feeling many are left with.