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Seattle's Police Chief Quits After WTO Protests

Seattle's police chief has quit becoming the first political casualty of the violent protests that disrupted the WTO meeting last week. John Howard reports.

Police Chief Norman Stamper had been harshly criticised by some civic leaders, police officers and others for his handling of the demonstrations last week that cost downtown merchants nearly US$20 million in lost sales and property damage.

The protests got so out of hand that the National Guard was called and a curfew imposed.

Stamper, 54, said he resigned now in hopes of removing politics from the examination of what went wrong.

Mayor Paul Schell has also come under fire. But at the news conference with Stamper at his side, he repeated that he will not resign.

Stamper said he will continue to cooperate in any investigation of the role of the police in dealing with demonstrations. However, yesterday he declined to answer several questions about the rioting.

Stamper's resignation follows almost nine months of turmoil over the integrity of the police internal investigations section. Relations between Stamper and Seattle's 1200 uniformed officers have been strained during his nearly six-year tenure.

"He has not been in touch with the rank-and-file," police union president Mike Edwards said. "His style has been a hands-off approach and I think that has been a mistake."

Edwards said police lacked crowd control equipment and found themselves on the streets for days with little food or rest.

Police critics have also said that tear gas and rubber bullets were fired indiscriminately and that innocent workers, shoppers and residents were swept up in arrests. They say the police over-reacted to what was a number of "rioters and looters" who were not part of the demonstrations at all.

However, police also have many supporters who say they had an impossible situation to deal with and they maintained a fairly professional stance. City Councillors have also supported police.


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