| Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Law enforcement agencies in Washington state’s larger cities were prepared Tuesday to respond to unrest during the election while police misconduct investigators warned that they’ll be watching the officers to make sure they handle protesters appropriately.
The Office of Police Accountability said its investigators and supervisors are on-call and ready to respond to potential misconduct and complaints. They encouraged the Seattle Police Department “to allow demonstrators to freely exercise their First Amendment rights.”
The office said that includes “not creating unnecessary barricades or arbitrarily restricting movement.”
They also advised demonstrators to protest peacefully and discouraged damaging property or causing injuries.
Thousands of demonstrators have held marches and rallies in Seattle and Bellevue since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May. While most gatherings were peaceful, the events sometimes turned violent with looting, rock-throwing, window breaking and clashes with officers.
The Office of Police Accountability has received more than 19,000 complaints about police misconduct during demonstrations. So far they’ve completed investigations in a handful of cases and found that at least three officers used excessive force while arresting suspects.
As of Monday, officials had not learned of any specific threats for Election Day, according to the mayor’s office. They also had not received reports of security threats at any ballot drop boxes.
But agencies throughout the region have made contingency plans “in order to be prepared for a wide range of scenarios,” the mayor’s office said.
The Seattle Police Department restricted time off for Election Day and the rest of the week to ensure they’ll be ready to handle any problems. Officers also received extra demonstration management training in preparation for protests.
In the nearby suburb of Bellevue, police spokeswoman Meeghan Black said officials have not heard about any planned protests but have “staffed up” to make sure officers are available if needed.
Some businesses in Seattle and Bellevue have boarded up windows to avoid damage.
“Anxieties are running high,” Black said.
Published at Thu, 05 Nov 2020 20:32:00 +0000