PEPPER SPRAY AND SWAT TEAMS

This November's World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle will be the biggest trade gathering in U.S. history, and you can be sure that every commie who can get here will be out trying to piss on the parade. But fear not, lovers of free trade, the Seattle Police Department is prepared.

That appears to be the basic gist of a July 16 article in The Wall Street Journal about the political organizing in response to the WTO summit. The piece, by WSJ staff reporter Helene Cooper, contains one paragraph in particular that's so friggin' weird, the only way to do it justice is to cite it verbatim:

"Seattle police officers say they are prepared for whatever happens. 'We have access to pepper spray,' says Officer Carmen Best, a spokeswoman for the department. The police department has set up a WTO planning commission, which is coordinating with the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and numerous other law-enforcement types. Officer Best says Seattle's aim is to let protesters exercise their right to free speech, but notes, pointedly, 'Our SWAT team is flexible.' " -- Ben Jacklet


THE RETALIATION HOTLINE?

In addition to a flexible SWAT team and access to pepper spray, the Seattle Police Department now has an "Accountability Hotline."

Got a problem with the way the Seattle Police Department's Internal Investigation Section (IIS) handled your complaint about the Seattle cops? Then give Chief Norm Stamper's "Accountability Hotline" (1-888-355-3900) a ring and lodge your confidential protest. The line -- part of Stamper's highly touted 12-point plan -- is supposed to be separate from IIS, which makes sense, given that it's intended to field complaints about the wayward unit.

However, when John Hoffman, the self-appointed watchdog of the SPD, put in a call to the hotline to register some complaints about IIS, he received a call back from a Captain Nick Metz, captain of -- you guessed it -- Internal Investigations.

In other words, when citizens call to complain about IIS, IIS gets right on it.

"I call the chief's hotline to complain about IIS," says Hoffman, "and IIS calls me back? They don't have anyone else who could possibly call me back?"

Not only is this set-up something like asking a chocolate-faced kid to investigate that missing piece of cake, but, as Hoffman worries, citizens who complain about IIS are now on IIS' phone list.

SPD spokeswoman Pam McCammon maintains that the hotline is "completely separate" from IIS, and says Chief Stamper is being briefed on issues and concerns like Hoffman's. -- Ben Jacklet


COMPUTER VIRUS

According to a July 9 report from the state auditor, UW's Harborview Medical Center (HMC) is in less than stable condition. Thankfully, the 44-page report didn't gong the King County hospital -- which prioritizes the poor, the mentally ill, prisoners, non-English-speaking patients, and trauma patients -- for bad care. But the 10 findings, focusing on sloppy bookkeeping, security, and management, certainly provide an embarrassing diagnosis of the publicly funded hospital. Harborview has a budget of $300 million.

In addition to the employee in volunteer services who falsified documents to the tune of $17,000 in misappropriated funds, and the custodian who managed to get paid twice for the same hours of work, the state auditor concluded that between December 1997 and November 1998, hospital insiders stole $53,000 worth of computer equipment. The problem was discovered when staffers, trying to operate their disabled computers, found that hard drives and memory had been pulled out. Other thefts were discovered when boxes that were supposed to contain new computers showed up empty. Meanwhile, computers logged in at HMC's receiving dock never showed up at the appropriate department or office.

The state auditor believes the computer caper was an inside job, because the thefts often occurred in locked offices and storage rooms, with no signs of forced entry.

HMC has installed video cameras and electronic locks to remedy the problem. -- Josh Feit

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