Urban Politics #91: A Brief Review Of The Wto Panel II Report

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.


A Brief Review Of The Wto Panel II Report


  • Introduction
  • History Of Panel II
  • Documents
  • Findings
  • Recommendations


Panel II was a citizens panel created by the City Council to look into the planning and preparation of the WTO Conference that was held in Seattle last fall. I was the Council Member charged with over sight of that panel. The findings and recommendations of Panel II are those of its citizen members and are not necessarily mine.

The following selections only highlight some of the information contained in the 64 page report. The full text of the report will be posted the on web at www.seattle.gov/wtocommittee

History Of Panel II

Seattle City Council members Nick Licata, Jan Drago, and Jim Compton led the efforts of the Seattle Council to examine what went wrong during the WTO Ministerial in order to prevent a similar outcome in the future. Through the leadership of these councilmembers, the city council passed Seattle City Council Resolution 30100. This resolution established an Accountability Review Committee (ARC) to “review events surrounding the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Seattle.”

The Committee appointed the Preparations and Planning Panel II to “determine what planning and decisions by city employees, including police and elected officials, and by other community members and organizations, preceded the City’s hosting of the WTO Conference.” The goal was to establish a factual record and to assist in future policy-making by the Seattle City Council.

I selected the persons listed below as participants on the panel because they represent various perspectives and interests within the community. They are as follows:

Norma Kelsey Sister Kathleen Pruitt Carl Livingston Clark Pickett Angela Toussaint Beth Wojick Kay Godefroy

The Panel met on a biweekly basis from February through August, 2000. Carl Livingston was named as chair. Three members, Wojick, Pruitt and Godefroy, were unable to continue attending when the panel extended its work into the summer. Starting in April, Dian Ferguson aided the group by facilitating meetings. Biographical information on the panel members is included in Appendix B.

The Panel decided to allow the public to attend meetings and participate in them. During the course of the meetings and interviews a number of citizens attended and helped shape the Panel’s work.


The ARC Staff coded, processed, and prepared more than 18,000 pages of documents, from correspondence and facsimile transmittals to memoranda and reports. To avoid overwhelming panel members with the sheer volume of materials, the staff identified hundreds of relevant documents for the panel members to study. Any panel member was free to review any document in staff possession at any time and several did.

The document catalog is available through the WTO ARC website, www.seattle.gov/wtocommittee, as are several of the reports issued by various observers and participants. All of the documents were made available to the public through the City Clerk’s Office. What follows is a list of the most important reports the Panel reviewed:

– Odenthal, Richard (LA Sheriff’s Office) “The Battle in Seattle” – Seattle Police Department After Action Report – McCarthy & Associates, “An Independent Review of the World Trade Organization Conference Disruptions in Seattle, Washington November 29 – December 3, 1999. – King County Sheriff’s Office Draft After Action Report – ACLU of Washington, “Out of Control: Seattle’s Flawed Response to Protests Against the World Trade Organization.” – National Lawyers’ Guild – Seattle Chapter, “Bringing in an Undemocratic Institution Brings an Undemocratic Response.”


The panel has found that planning for the World Trade Organization Third Ministerial was badly flawed. The planning process for the conference was inadequate, and, in particular, the security planning for the event was woefully inadequate to the challenges faced by the City of Seattle. The planning failed in large part because several of the agencies involved did not realistically assess what would be required in order to have the conference and the city run smoothly during the week of the Ministerial.

In the actual report each of the following findings are followed by longer, explanatory texts as well as documentation in the appendix.

A. Overall Conference Planning and Preparation

A-1. The planning model was inappropriate to this event because it divided hosting and security considerations between the private and public sector with inadequate coordination.

A-2. The planning model failed because public and private sector planners did not develop a comprehensive, written plan uniting hosting, security, and constitutional rights considerations.

A-3. Given that this event was as complex as past international events hosted in Seattle, not enough time was available to re-evaluate the plan and deploy adequate resources to address any changes.

A-4 The Seattle Host Organization and the City of Seattle Executive Office, in their eagerness to host the WTO at all costs, became advocates for the meeting instead of watching out for the city’s interests.

B. Security Planning and Preparation

B-1. The City of Seattle intelligence ordinance DID NOT materially affect the Seattle Police Department’s ability to effectively identify and plan for possible protest activity.

B-2. The Seattle Police Department, despite the clear evidence that it would need assistance, was unwilling to guarantee payment for additional police resources from other agencies.

B-3. Security planners planned more extensively for extreme terrorist activity, such as detonation of a weapon of mass destruction, than for the more likely and predictable mass civil disobedience and disturbances.

B-4. The failure to plan adequately led to the exposure of individuals exercising their constitutional rights and of bystanders to the effects of chemical agents, including “tear gas,” and the denial of the constitutional rights of all citizens within the emergency curfew areas.

B-5. The public safety plan failed to adequately address clearly foreseeable management, logistics and communications problems.

B-6. All members of the WTO Public Safety Executive Committee share responsibility for the plan because they reviewed the plan and did not raise strong enough nor formal objections.

B-7. In failing to plan adequately for mass arrests, SPD violated its prior understanding with protest groups to conduct scripted mass arrests.

B-8. SPD was aware that the Sandpoint facility was inadequate for detaining arrestees and failed to act.

B-9. The department made no effort to develop comprehensive demonstration management training with other law enforcement agencies.

C. Agency and Organizational Failures

C-1. The Seattle Police Department

C-1a. Police chief Norm Stamper abdicated his responsibilities in hosting the WTO Ministerial.

C-1b. While the mayor and the police chief are clearly responsible for overseeing an event of this type, Assistant Chief Ed Joiner’s planning failures contributed significantly to the overall failure of the planning process.

C-2. The Seattle Host Organization’s greatest failure was in not raising adequate funds for the conference.

C-3. City of Seattle Executive

C-3a. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell should have taken an active leadership role in the decision-making and coordination of staff overseeing the event.

C-3b. Mayor Schell was clearly aware of the potential for disruptions.

C-3c. The Executive sought only to inform the city council and not to engage them.

C-3d. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell was less than forthright to business and retail owners about both the potential for large demonstrations and the amount of revenue that the Ministerial was expected to generate for businesses.

C-3e. Personnel in the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, the city department most responsible for the overall organizing effort, seem to have concentrated on serving as boosters for the conference rather than as public servants looking out for the welfare of the citizens of Seattle.

C-4. The Seattle City Council should have insisted on greater involvement and fiscal oversight.


This report finds that the city was unprepared to host the WTO and that planning for the event was insufficient. We recommend several changes in the process to ensure that similar failures do not occur in the future.

1. The city council should adopt an ordinance stipulating that any large event requiring a significant commitment of city resources be approved by the city council. Approval may be granted following a review that includes a cost/benefit analysis and an opportunity to comment from independent experts, city leaders and departments, and the public. This ordinance would establish the template for evaluating future events.

In the case of large events, the review process should include an independent analysis of the fiscal impact to the City, not just the hard costs of police and fire, but the management costs associated with the event.

2. In the case of events with a private sponsor, there should be assurances that the taxpayers of the city are protected from unplanned costs. That protection could take the form of a contract with the private sponsor, or a requirement for a bond or some other financial guarantee.

3. The City must develop a new planning model, which includes a comprehensive oversight structure that has a clear delineation and hierarchy of responsibilities. This new model must have stronger coordination between security planning and host planning. The new model must also incorporate security planning that allows for the changing nature of events and establish a system of incremental contingencies in response to those events.

4. This committee does not recommend repealing or changing the City of Seattle Intelligence Ordinance. We do, however, recommend that the new planning model for intelligence gathering use an approach that makes the most of available resources under the ordinance.

5. The mayor should meet with the chiefs of the various security forces making up the mutual aid network 120 and 60 days out from the event, in order to make sure preparations are on schedule. If all key members of the mutual aid network cannot guarantee 60 days before that the planning and training have been integrated and are on schedule, then serious remedies need to be required to resolve those deficiencies.

6. Protection of constitutional rights of demonstrators must receive the same emphasis as other topics in SPD training courses. Constitutional rights (civil liberties) concerns should be addressed like other security issues. The planning model for a controversial event should assume mass civil disobedience and plan and train accordingly. Tactics of protestors should be planned for and respected.

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