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Cover Story

Seattle Siege: Learning From the Chaos

As one officer close to the incident said, "This is what happens when your command structure and city management do not plan ahead and refuse to pay attention to known negative intelligence."

April 01, 2000  |  by Joseph Henderson

He added that at 6 a.m. the physical demonstrations picked up. At around 7 a.m., they were no longer functioning as a "soft platoon."  His platoon, instead of being replaced, was to re-group for redeployment, instead of returning to his precinct for patrol.  He and his partner diverted to what turned out to be one of many priority assistance calls that day.

"We went to assist some East Precinct officers calling for help," said Novisedlak. While working the line, many demonstrators assaulted the officers, he said. "We had ball bearings, pieces of metal, and pachinko balls thrown and shot at us, and unknown powders and liquids were thrown on us." The officers suspected the liquid to be human urine.

Although not generally reported by the media, some of the protesters used slingshots to hurl items at the officers.

According to Novisedlak, around 3 p.m., "We received unofficial word to not expect to be relieved; this after being on the line for 12 hours without any real breaks, we had to buy our own water if we wanted something to drink."

When asked about the delegates he responded by saying, "It really tore us up to watch what happened to the delegates."

"On one hand, we knew we had to hold the line, but we weren't allowed to do our job. We could have broken ranks...delegates were terrified.

"The opportunity to escort delegates would not have defeated our presence."

Novisedlak said that around sundown, he started recognizing some of the "protesters" as gangbangers from the south end of Seattle. He also agreed with others: "We were on for 19 hours, there were no plans for portable batteries, we were forced to shut off our radios and alternate use to conserve the power.

"Communications in general were horrible."

Responding to questions from POLICE about preparation, SPD's Novisedlak said, "(it was) months in advance.

"Command staff showed us films of what to expect, then when it did happen, they tried to deny knowledge of what to expect.

"This is what happens when your command structure and city management do not plan ahead and refuse to pay attention to known negative intelligence."

Other PSD officers echoed Officers Kizzier's, Novisedlak's and Geoggan's comments and sentiments.

Rick Adamson, commander of the PCSD's SWAT Team, told POLICE that when his team first arrived as part of the 60 Deputy Mobile Field Force (MFF). "Seattle wanted us to break up in small teams to staff various posts." He and the MFF Commander Lt. Rob Masko refused, telling Seattle they were trained for civil disobedience and crowd control. The MFF could be broken into two groups of 30, but not smaller, he explained to Seattle command personnel. "SWAT functions with the MFF were armed arrest teams, officer rescue, chemical agents and less lethal force," Adamson told POLICE he conveyed to Seattle.

Because of their core setup, both Pierce and King County units were used for presidential protection at the Westin Hotel, as well as other details.

Asked about logistics, Adamson said, "the command and control system was unworkable," adding "there seemed to be an unwillingness at the command level to believe the intelligence assessments and a failure to plan for the worst-case scenario based on the intel."

Masko told POLICE that he had been assigned two SPD liaison officers for communication purposes. The SPD officers did not have the tactical frequencies being used by the SPD riot control teams. "Communications was very poor," he said. 

And according to SPD Officer Geoghagen, the problems extended beyond the downtown areas.

"Eighteen recruits and I were sent to help process arrestees at the holding area," adding that even with the additional staff, the facility was terribly understaffed.

"The protesters were completely uncooperative; they locked arms and basically reenacted the downtown protests.

"If officers tried to take a protester for booking, they were swarmed by the mob."


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