Seattle Police
5:36 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

SPD Officials Say They've Learned May Day Lessons

SPD officers and protesters at Westlake Center on May 1, 2012.
Credit Flickr Photo/Trevor Dykstra

A new report found many shortcomings in how the Seattle Police Department handled May Day demonstrations in downtown Seattle last year. SPD officials said they’ve made important changes since then. 

Last year, after May Day demonstrations brought protesters to downtown Seattle, Seattle police officials and Mayor Mike McGinn held a press conference praising the police response and the fact that no one was injured that day.

Mayor McGinn signed an emergency declaration allowing police officers to confiscate weapons by mid-afternoon. But business groups protested the property damage in downtown Seattle, and asked why events were allowed to get out of hand for three hours before police restored order.

Kate Joncas is the president of the Downtown Seattle Association and watched the demonstrations turn ugly that day.

“What was really frightening is people were running down Sixth Avenue in fear from the violence that was happening,” Joncas said. “We need our police department to do a much better job with protests to keep everybody safe.”

SPD commissioned an independent review of the May Day events by former Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michael Hillman. That report released Tuesday said the mayhem in downtown Seattle occurred partly because of last-minute planning and conflicting instructions given by Seattle police commanders.

Speaking before the Seattle City Council, SPD officials concurred with its conclusions, although they said they may have concerns over some of the individual recommendations in the report.

Deputy Chief Nick Metz said SPD has anticipated some of the report’s suggestions and put them in place already. Metz says he and other officers will provide consistent leadership and early planning heading into the May Day observances in Seattle this year.