The Seattle Police Department (SPD) paid the Seattle Times $20,000 after admitting to withholding an internal memo criticizing the department’s response against protesters in a May 1, 2012 demonstration.
The Times reported on Tuesday that the department confessed to violating the state’s Public Records Act by not making the memo, which criticized Assistant Chief Mike Sanford for “contradictory orders, haphazard planning and operational interference” during the 2012 “May Day” demonstration in downtown Seattle. The payout prevents the department from being sued by the Times for violating the law.
An independent review (PDF) of the department’s response conducted by former Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Mike Hillmann noted that SPD did not begin planning for the demonstration until the week beforehand. It also slammed Sanford for wading into the crowd of demonstrators after it became unruly, despite issuing separate memos to police commanders calling for “no crowd engagement.” Sanford had to be rescued by officers wielding pepper spray against demonstrators.
Sanford has since been reassigned from supervising the SPD’s patrol division to leading the “Professional Standards Bureau.” Then-Chief John Díaz retired in April 2013.
In a statement (PDF), police said they did not release the memo when the Times first issued a public requests record for it on July 23, 2012 because they did not want to compromise Hillmann’s review.
“The Department agrees that, although the PRA allows production of records in installments, it is never permissible to withhold the existence of a responsive document from a requestor or to improperly delay the release of documents,” SPD said in its statement.
[Image: “Police In Full Riot Gear And Batons Guard Gap Stores During Anti-Sweatshop Protests On Sept. 27, 2002 In Washington, D.C.” via Shutterstock]