Police "love catching bad guys," explained Asst. Chief Jim Pugel at this afternoon's press conference convened in the Seattle Police department's cozy, windowless downtown media bunker. "That's why they became police officers."
That's also why police have subpoenaed media outlets for coverage of the May Day protests, as Eli reported yesterday. So how's that going? "[Media outlets] are responding quickly and with a lot of information," reports Pugel, who dodged questions of whether the media met SPD's arbitrary 9:00 a.m. deadline this morning by saying only, "We’ve had complete cooperation."
When asked about precedent for subpoenaing media outlets for footage, Pugel cited the 1999 WTO protests and 2001 Pioneer Square Mardi Gras riots. Here's what bothers me: Pugel repeatedly cited the "significant amount of property damage" that occurred on May 1 to justify the subpoenas, but admitted that police had no estimates for the extent (or cost) of that property damage.
Pugel acknowledged that, "You can’t be arrested for being dressed like a thug until you commit a crime."
However, now that the department is backpedaling away from a recent proposal to give officers the authority to film protests without evidence of any crimes being committed (thanks to media coverage on the topic), I think it's logical to see (or fear) that SPD might start viewing these media subpoenas as a different means to the same end: gathering intel on people engaged in protests, whether or not they're breaking any laws.
One final, unrelated nugget of info: After Pugel's call for more intel from the public on the May Day protests (email tips to email@example.com), Asst. Chief Clark Kimerer briefly took the podium to address questions about the criminal investigation of Asst. Chief Mike Sanford.
Kimerer said that Sanford will not be reassigned from his duties and that the department's Office of Professional Accountability will now be conducting their own review of the allegations, even though the King County Prosecutor's Office today announced that they wouldn't be filing criminal charges against the assistant chief, as an investigation into Sanford's actions revealed no criminal activity.
Kimerer then bizarrely intimated that the allegations were likely drummed up by someone outside of the department who was upset with SPD's newly unveiled 20/20 plan, which Sanford is leading. "There’s no validation or verification that these complaints came from captains or anywhere else [in the department]—it’s speculative," Kimerer said, adding, "There are many folks who resist significant change. [Sanford] knew this going into it, and he didn’t shy away from the fact that he could become a target or point of criticism for folks."
See? Even police officers aren't immune to outlandish conspiracy theories.