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City leaders grill police about destructive May Day riots

City leaders grill police about destructive May Day riots
SEATTLE -- After nearly a year of requests, city leaders finally got Seattle police to go on the record Wednesday about what went wrong during last year's destructive May Day Riots.

"What concerns me the most is the lack of transparency," City Councilman Bruce Harrell said during Wednesday's meeting.

Harrell pressed police commanders to explain the breakdowns that allowed back-clad anarchists to run unchecked through downtown streets.

He also wants to know why police took 11 months to issue an after-action report, even though he'd been asking for it from the get go.

"I am very sorry that this has turned into a finger pointing exercise, because that's not the intent of an after-action report," said police chief John Diaz.

Three separate reports have since been made public. They blame commanders for issuing confusing instructions and adopting crowd-control techniques without properly training officers.

"There were a lot of things that we were not prepared to do, that we had not been trained to do," said Lt. Eric Sano with the Seattle Police Management Association.

The police union representative said the May Day reports fail to identify the real man in charge as assistant chief Mike Sanford, who had to be rescued by his own officers when he charged into the crowd.

Instead, Capt. Joe Kessler shouldered much of the blame for the day's events.

"As a union we didn't want to see our member be pilloried like this in the press when he wasn't at fault," Sano said.

Police also detailed the changes they've made for this year's May Day under Capt. Chris Fowler. Everything from roll-call instructions to the use of uniformed and undercover officers is being reworked so people can exercise their civil liberties safely.

"We're not looking for fall guys. We're not looking to push the blame. We're looking for transparency and to improve our systems," Harrell said.