Crowd Control

Make your voice heard, submit comment on SPD's proposed policy changes

Purpose of this policy

This policy outlines SPD's procedures for responding to lawful and unlawful assemblies and introduces the Crowd Management, Intervention, and Control (CMIC) matrix outlining SPD's responses to different types of assemblies and participants' behaviors.

Revisions SPD is proposing

  • Proposed changes rename the policy from "Crowd Management" to "Crowd Management, Intervention, and Crowd Dispersal" and expands the purpose section to acknowledge variety in demonstration sizes and purpose as well as SPD's commitment to safety.
  • The policy introduces the Crowd Management, Intervention, and Control Strategies (CMIC) matrix and requires that Incident Commanders use it to determine how they will respond to assemblies.
  • The policy defines: Crowd Management; Crowd Intervention; Crowd Control and Dispersal; CMIC Matrix; De-escalation; Legal Observers; and Media.
  • Requires sound amplification equipment to issue public safety/dispersal orders.
  • Allows for incident commanders to adjust response after issuing a dispersal order. 
  • Adds a section on how SPD should treat media and legal observers.
  • Allows for officers to make individual decisions to use force consistent with Use of Force policies if there is "imminent threat of physical harm...or to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property."
  • Creates a process for debriefing large scale and/or prolonged events.

Read SPD's proposed policy changes in full. 

CPC initial analysis

  • The policy does not adopt the CPC's recommendations made in response to City Council's Crowd Control Weapons Ban. 
  • SPD's timeline does not build in time to confer with community and accountability partners. Additionally, SPD's attempt to change policies as Council is considering related legislation subverts the City's process.
  • The policy allows SPD to continue to use weapons such as Blast Balls, OC Spray, and less lethal munitions (e.g. 40mm) in crowd dispersal situations, in direct opposition to CPC recommendation to ban all these weapons in the crowd control context. It also includes a new "less-lethal" option called Pepper balls.
  • This policy does not establish clear, strong, and high standards for issuing an order to disperse or declaring a "riot" and does not require SPD to make documentation of why these orders were issued publicly available. It also does not require an outside review of dispersal orders and any resulting outcomes
  • While the policy discusses SPD's desire to ensure safety, it does not address the way officers show up to assemblies and how they individually interact with those exercising first amendment rights.
  • The threshold for when an assembly can be considered unlawful (e.g. violent acts by at least four people) and isolated unlawful behavior (e.g. individual sit-down demonstrators) is too low. These isolated incidents can lead to the suppression of first amendment rights for thousands of people. Depending on crowd size and available exit routes, dispersal orders based on isolated incidents can also lead to negative outcomes related to a perceived disregard of the order.

Comment on this policy

We want to know what you think. Whether or not you agree with the CPC's assessment, you can submit your thoughts on SPD's proposed policies by using the form below, emailing us at OCPC@Seattle.gov, or contacting us any other way. Due to SPD's current deadlines, we ask that you do your best to submit your thoughts by Tuesday, January 26th.

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