City Learns Lesson from WTO: Police Must Wear ID

News Release: 
Saturday, September 30, 2000

In September the Seattle City Council passed the first ordinance resulting from police failures during the WTO demonstrations. As recommended in the ACLU's report on WTO, the law requires all Seattle Police Department officers to wear legible identification on the outermost layer of their uniforms and to orally identify themselves when asked by citizens. The ordinance – a no-brainer – stems from hundreds of citizen complaints that officers did not wear visible identification on their riot and rain gear or identify themselves when asked during WTO protests last fall, making it impossible to investigate and hold accountable individual officers for acts of misconduct.

Early next year the Council will consider other reforms in response to criticisms of the City's handling of WTO. The report of the Council's WTO Accountability Review Committee echoes several major themes in the ACLU's WTO report, which the Seattle Weekly credited as "the best review of rights violations so far." Among the overlapping recommendations are ensuring that law enforcement officers receive sufficient crowd control training which protects civil liberties; suspending the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other chemical weapons unless or until their health effects have been studied and they are proven safe; and amending the city code to require that the city council ratify or reject emergency declarations within 48 hours.

Still pending is the ACLU's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City's imposition and enforcement of a "No Protest Zone" during WTO. The case is expected to go to trial in 2001.

The ACLU's work on WTO issues continues to garner widespread attention. This summer an article in The Progressive discussed our "No Protest Zone" lawsuit, and staff attorney Aaron Caplan participated in a panel discussion about protests on Philadelphia’s public station WHYY. Cooperating attorney and board member Mark Aoki-Fordham discussed protest rights on "MSNBC Investigates." An Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio show interviewed Public Education Director Doug Honig about WTO, while a University of London branch has put our WTO report in its library. The ACLU's report, Out of Control: Seattle's Flawed Response to Protests Against the World Trade Organization, is available online on the ACLU-WA Web site at