Seattle Police Department

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Seattle Police Department
Seattle Police Logo-Badge.png
Logo/Patch of the Seattle Police Department
MottoService, Pride, Dedication
Agency overview
Annual budget$410 m (2020)[1]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionWashington, U.S.
Seattle in King County.png
Seattle Police jurisdiction
Size142.5 square miles (369 km2)
Legal jurisdictionCity of Seattle
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington, United States
Police Officersc. 1,300[2]
Agency executive
Seattle Police Website

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is the principal law enforcement agency of the city of Seattle, in the U.S. state of Washington, except for the campus of the University of Washington, for which responsibility falls to the University of Washington Police Department. It is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The Seattle Police Department has a number of specialty units, including SWAT, bike patrol, harbor patrol, motorcycles, mounted patrols, and a variety of detective units.[3]

Law enforcement in Seattle began with the election of John T. Jordan as town marshal in 1870.[4] The SPD was officially organized on June 2, 1869. As of 2011, it had a staff of around 1,800.[5] Since the establishment of the Seattle Police Department, 58 officers have died in the line of duty.[6]

Command structure[edit]

  • Chief Carmen Best (Chief of Police)
  • Deputy Chief Marc Garth Green (Deputy Chief)
  • Assistant Chief Eric Greening (Assistant Chief - Patrol Operations Bureau)
  • Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette (Criminal Investigations Bureau)
  • Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak (Homeland Security/Special Operations)
  • Assistant Chief Lesley Cordner (Assistant Chief - Professional Standards Bureau)
  • Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz (Assistant Chief - Collaborative Policing)
  • Interim Chief Operating Officer Mark Baird
  • Executive Director of Human Resources Mike Fields
  • Chief Administrative Officer Valarie Anderson
  • Director Angela Socci (Interim Executive Director - Budget & Finance)
  • Executive Director Christopher Fisher (Executive Director - Strategy)
  • Director Barb Graff (Director - Office of Emergency Management)

Rank structure and insignia[edit]

Title Insignia
Chief of Police
4 Gold Stars.svg
Deputy Chief
3 Gold Stars.svg
Assistant Chief
2 Gold Stars.svg
Captain insignia gold.svg
US-O1 insignia.svg
SCHP - Sergeant.png
Police Officer
Source: Seattle Police Department: Policy and Procedure Manual, Title 9.050 (XI)(B), p. 7–8[7]


After three years in patrol, officers can become candidates to transfer to a wide variety of specialty units and are also eligible to attend a weeklong detective school. After five years as a police officer, they can take a promotional examination. Every other year, civil service tests are administered for promotions. Tests are given for the rank of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. Assistant and Deputy chiefs are appointed by the chief from the management ranks. Officers may be promoted to sergeant after five years of experience with the Department and passing the Sergeant's exam. Lieutenants must have at least three years' experience as Sergeants, and Captains must have at least three years' experience as Lieutenants. A bachelor's degree may substitute for one year of experience but can only be used for one promotional exam.[8]

Significant events[edit]

A Seattle Police car on patrol near 2nd Ave downtown.

On June 21, 1974, a Seattle Police helicopter on its way to a shooting collided with a Cessna near Boeing Field. Both officers on board and both civilians in the Cessna were killed.[9]

In 1987, the Seattle Police Department created the modern mountain bike patrol units, paving the way for cities across North America to follow.[10]

In 2011, the Justice Department found that the department had engaged in a pattern of constitutional violations in its use of force.[11]

In 2012, the rank of "Sergeant Major" was created and bestowed upon then-Sergeant Arnold "Arny" McGinnis. Sergeant Major McGinnis started working at the Seattle Police Department in 1962, holding the rank of police officer. He retired in July 2012 at the age of 75, reaching fifty years of service to the city of Seattle. He is the only member of the SPD known to hold the rank.[12]

On May 19, 2014, Kathleen O'Toole was nominated to serve as Chief of the Seattle Police Department and was officially appointed on June 23, 2014.[13]

2020 George Floyd Protests[edit]

Police and National Guard on Capitol Hill in Seattle on June 3, 2020

On Sunday May 31, 2020 the department blockaded the streets around the East Precinct which was located at the intersection of 12th Ave E and E Pine. They did this before a protest march approached the precinct. The march moved on after a short while. On Monday June 1 a much larger group of thousands marched from Westlake Plaza to the intersection of 11th Ave E and E Pine where the street was blockaded. This day the march did not move on. After several hours the police ordered the group to disperse. When they did not they tear gassed the protestors. [14] A similar gathering formed the next night. This was also ordered to disperse and tear gassed. On June 3 Mayor Jenny Durkan lifted the curfew that had been in effect since May 30. On June 5 Mayor Durkan banned the use of tear gas for 30 days without the approval of the Police Chief. [15] On Saturday June 6 the police again used pepper spray and non-tear gas explosives to try to disperse demonstrators. Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant said “The police had come prepared to inflict violence without provocation.” By this time protestors had coalesced around demands of defunding of the police department by at least 50%, an expansion of investments in black and brown communities, and releasing all protestors.[16] Nightly protests continued until June 7 when the crowd was again dispersed by flash bangs and tear gas, which the police said was in response to protesters throwing projectiles at officers.[17] On Monday June 8 the police boarded up the precinct and withdrew from the building. Later that night residents declared "Free Capitol Hill".[18]

On June 17, 2020, King County Labor Council delegates voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the organization, following a demand pushed by many protesters.[19]


In 1999, Seattle hosted the World Trade Organization (WTO) Conference. The Seattle Police Department was criticized for failing to properly prepare for the over 100,000 protesters that disrupted the conference. While the majority of protestors were not violent, some assaulted delegates and police, and destroyed property. The protest soon devolved into a riot. In response, SPD used chemical agents and less-lethal weapons in an attempt to restore order. News footage of this response and of the rioting was broadcast worldwide. Amazingly, not a single protester or police officer was injured seriously enough during the riot to require hospitalization. Chief Norm Stamper resigned amid the scrutiny of police response to the event.[20]

In 2001, riots broke out downtown during the Mardi Gras celebrations. The riots resulted in one death, more than 70 hospitalizations, and 21 arrests. The Seattle Police Officers' Guild membership voted overwhelmingly "no confidence" in Chief Gil Kerlikowske for his failure to take appropriate leadership action during the incident.

In August 2010, SPD officer Ian Birk shot and killed Indian woodcarver John T. Williams.[21][22][23] Subsequent grand jury findings on the level of threat posed by Williams were inconclusive but an internal review of the shooting by the SPD's Firearms Review Commission found the shooting "unjustified" and cited Birk's tactical mishandling of the confrontation as being responsible for Williams' death.[24][25] Birk resigned from the department, though prosecutor Dan Satterberg declined to file charges, prompting a protest by Williams' family and supporters.[26]

In 2010, detectives from SPD's Gang Unit ordered two Latino men suspected of committing a crime to lie on the ground, where they were kicked and verbally assaulted; the incident was captured on a bystander's cellphone video.[27][28] The police let the men go soon afterwards; the video prompted protests over racial tensions and a police department internal investigation. Several officers were suspended without pay and/or demoted, but not criminally charged. A civil lawsuit by one of the two men has been filed. It was settled later in 2012 for $100,000. [29]

In December 2011 the SPD was subject to a Department of Justice investigation that found officers had violated the 14th Amendment and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The DOJ found that SPD officers engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force that violated the Constitution as well as Federal law. Furthermore, the regular invocation of the Garrity protection was found to have reduced the department's ability to supervise the use of force and hinder investigations. A spokesman for the SPD indicated they will fully comply with the DOJ inquiry to avoid a federal lawsuit.[30] In late July 2012, the city and Department of Justice reached a settlement that included improved oversight, training and reporting.[31]

On 6 October 2012, Officer Eric Faust beat a man he was attempting to detain. In September 2013, as a result of an internal investigation, the department suspended Faust for eight days without pay.[32]

On 13 July 2013, the department fired Lieutenant Donnie Lowe due to misconduct characterized as domestic violence and dishonesty.[33]

On 30 July 2013, Officer John Marion, threatened a reporter who was observing a number of policemen making an arrest. An internal investigation of Marion's behavior confirmed his actions. He was given a single day of unpaid suspension.[34][35]

In August 2013, the city agreed to pay two brothers $38,500 for a case of abuse. The two men claimed they were targeted by Officer Michael Waters because he was upset at how they had treated him at a local bar. According to the claim, Waters and his partner used the pretext of looking for two bank robbers to humiliate and assault the two men. Although the city agreed to settle the matter, neither officer was punished and they continue on the force.[36]

In January 2014, Detective David Blackmer plead guilty to stalking his mistress after she threatened to reveal their relationship to his wife. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail. An internal police investigation was then launched to determine whether he should be fired.[37]

In July 2014, Officer Cynthia Whitlatch arrested William Wingate, a black pedestrian who had a golf club that he was using as a cane. She falsely claimed that Wingate had swung his cane at her and he was charged with obstruction and harassment and spent a night in jail. When video showed he had done nothing to provoke the officer, the police department apologized in January 2015.[38] Whitlatch was later fired by Chief O'Toole.[39]

In November 2016, Officer Adley Shepherd was fired after he punched a drunk, handcuffed woman who kicked him while he was putting her into the back of his police car. An arbitrator on the Disciplinary Review Board later attempted to reduce the firing to a 15-day suspension, but was overruled by a King County judge.[40]

In March 2017, a duffel bag in the South Precinct was found containing a handgun reported stolen in 1990.[41]

In May 2018, Officer Matthew Kerby drove to a West Seattle house in search of a man who allegedly drove away from a minor collision. When he found that the man was not home, he told a woman at the home that the man had been involved in a hit-and-run in which a woman involved might not survive. This led to a chain of events which culminated in the man's suicide in June of that year. Kerby was later suspended for six days without pay. [42]

In July 2018, officers Kenneth Martin and Tabitha Sexton were fired after an October 2017 incident in which they shot 27 rounds into a fleeing car in Eastlake.[43]

In October 2018, Sergeant Frank Poblocki was demoted to officer after he sat for 40 minutes outside the workplace of a man who cursed him and called him names. Witnesses say he referred to this behavior as community policing.[44]

In February 2019, the city agreed to pay Alonzo Price-Holt $100,001, as well as $58,989 in attorney fees, to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged excessive use of force by Officer Zsolt Dornay. Footage from the holding cell shows Officer Dornay tackling Price-Holt, who had his hands handcuffed behind his back. Dornay was also given 30 days of unpaid leave as a result of the incident.[45]

In January 2020, Officer Duane Goodman was fired for his Instagram posts, which a report by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) described as using "extreme profane language" and posts that ranted against "illegal immigration" and "appeared to endorse violence" against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The department contacted the Secret Service, who interviewed Goodman, after he captioned an image of a package bomb with the message, "I don’t condone sending package bombs but god it would be nice for Killary and Anti-cop Obama to finally STFU! Maybe Obama will stop lying and claiming the good economy is from him."[46][47]

In February 2020, Officer Todd Novisedlak was fired after an investigation by the OPA which cited his physically abusing his ex-girlfriend, his marijuana use, and his repeatedly making discriminatory and derogatory remarks against others based on race, sexual orientation, and gender. [48] This follows a 2015 court case, settled by the city, in which a man was jailed for a week after a kidnapping victim "positively identified" a license photograph, shown to her by Novisedlak, of a man with the same name as one of the suspects. [49]

In May 2020, during the George Floyd protests in Washington state, while Seattle police were attempting to detain looters, a white suspect was restrained with an officer's knee on his neck for 13 seconds while bystanders urged the officer to stop. This continued until a second officer intervened to push the first officer's knee to the suspect's back. This was documented on video. George Floyd himself had died after being restrained with a knee on his neck during an arrest.[50] According to The Huffington Post, further video footage showed that the same Seattle officer had just used his knee on the neck of another white looting suspect.[51]

In June 2020, a Federal Judge in Seattle ordered local police to stop using tear gas, pepper spray, flash bangs, rubber bullets, and other force against non-violent protestors, finding that the Seattle Police had used excessive force against demonstrators, violating their right to free speech.[52]


A majority of SPD officers carry various models and calibers of Glock pistols.

Various Glock models used by SPD are the Glock Model 17 9mm, Glock Model 22 .40 S&W, and the Glock Model 21 .45 ACP being among the ones used. The Glock Model 19 9 mm and Model 23 .40 are also used. Other weapons can be used for special assignments include Beretta, Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, among others of approved calibers.[53]

AR-15's and shotguns are also issued to patrol officers after additional required qualification(s).

Specialty units including SWAT utilize select fire suppressed rifles (typically an AR variant), HK MP5 SMG's, shotguns and sniper weapon systems.

Bike Unit[edit]

The Bike Unit is credited as the first mountain bike unit in the United States.[10]

In 2005 the department started testing the use of BlackBerry PDAs with bike patrol officers. These PDAs allowed officers on the streets access to police records when the use of regular mobile data computer is not available.[54]

Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum[edit]

The Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum was a museum in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Founded in 1997, it was dedicated to the history of the Seattle Police Department and of law enforcement in the Seattle metropolitan area. It claimed to be the largest police museum in the western United States until its closure in 2017.[55]

In popular culture[edit]

Regular patrol officers in uniform at Seattle Hempfest

On the American television sitcom Frasier, Frasier's father Martin Crane was a homicide detective in the Seattle Police Department. Detective Crane was forced to retire after he was shot in the hip.

Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez starred as Seattle Police detectives in the films Stakeout and its sequel Another Stakeout. The first film was actually filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia instead of Seattle while the second was filmed in Seattle.

John Wayne played a Seattle police detective in the 1974 film McQ.

In the 1987 film Harry and the Hendersons, members of the Seattle Police Department investigate various prowler incidents as well as taking plaster casts of Sasquatch footprints.

In the 1990 film Short Time, Dabney Coleman plays a Seattle police detective whose medical records are mixed up with those of a bus driver who has only a short time to live. In an effort to secure his family's financial security, he attempts to get killed in the line of duty but, in a turn of comedic events, becomes a hero cop instead. This film was also filmed in Vancouver, BC despite the Seattle setting.

In the film Assassins (1995) starring Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, and Antonio Banderas, Seattle Police chase the assassins through the city. One of the pursuing officers was played by an actual serving Seattle police officer.

In the television series Millennium (1996), Lance Henriksen starred as Frank Black, an ex-FBI agent that had retired to Seattle. As a consultant for the Millennium Group, he often worked with the Seattle Police Department to pursue serial killers and crack other cases of violent crimes that typically involved apocalyptic, demonic or supernatural themes. Two recurring characters, Lt. Robert Bletcher and Det. Bob Giebelhouse, were Seattle Police homicide detectives.

The 2005 film Police Beat follows an immigrant turned Seattle bicycle cop. It was written by Charles Mudede, the police beat reporter for the publication The Stranger.

In 2006, Kyle Chandler portrayed an ill-fated lieutenant in Seattle's Police Department's bomb squad in an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

In 2007, Battle in Seattle was released starring Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson. It is a story about the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity. Harrelson plays a Seattle cop.

In the video game World in Conflict, the Seattle Police Department helps the National Guard to fight back the Soviet Army's invasion of United States. Although not a playable unit, a number of SPD officers can be seen in the opening cutscene, engaging Soviet Army troopers and evacuating civilians.

In the television show Criminal Minds, the department along with the FBI helped solve recent kidnappings and a murder.

The AMC series The Killing stars Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden, a lead Seattle Police homicide detective. Although many exterior shots show Seattle landmarks, the series is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is headlined by Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue, playing former Seattle PD Detectives D.B. Russell and Julie Finlay, both forensic specialists.

Released in 2015, the psychological suspense novel It's Always Darkest by author Lisa Martinez takes place in Seattle and surrounding areas, offering two secondary characters as officers with Seattle PD's East Precinct. Seattle SWAT also has a small scene in the novel.

On July 25, 2018, Seattle PD released a video of police officers lip-syncing the words to Downtown by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in response to the Lip Sync Challenge.[56]

The NBC series The InBetween is set in Seattle. Psychic medium Cassie Bedford uses her abilities to help her foster father Detective Tom Hackett solve crimes. The show is shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "City of Seattle's 2020 Proposed Budget, Police". Seattle City Budget Office. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Redirect – Seattle Police Department".
  4. ^ Moody, Dick (November 15, 1953). "Berry-Patch Patrol Was First Police Job". The Seattle Times. p. 4.
  5. ^ "About SPD". Retrieved December 18, 2011.
  6. ^ "Officer down". The Officer Down Memorial Page.
  7. ^ "Title 9.050 – Uniforms & Equipment" (PDF). Seattle Police Department: Policy and Procedure Manual. Seattle Police Department. July 22, 2011. Section XI. Insignia of Rank (B), pp. 7–8. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  8. ^ "West CPT Team – Seattle Police Department".
  9. ^ "In Memoriam – Seattle Police Department".
  10. ^ a b "LEBA".
  11. ^ SPD officer suspended for escalating confrontation, excessive force, by Steve Miletich, 10 September 2013, Seattle Times
  12. ^ Casey McNerthney (June 27, 2012). "After nearly 50 years, Seattle cop still on patrol". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  13. ^ "Former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole picked to run Seattle Police Department".
  14. ^ {{cite web|url=
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Chase Burns, Rich Smith and Jasmyne KeimigCasey McNerthney (June 9, 2020). "The Dawn of "Free Capitol Hill"". The Stranger.
  19. ^ Takahama, Elise (June 17, 2020). "Seattle Police Officers Guild expelled from county's largest labor council". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  20. ^ Rick Anderson (January 12, 1999). "Protesters riot, police riot". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  21. ^ Steve Miletich (October 17, 2010). John T. Williams: Dashboard Video of SPD Shooting.
  22. ^ Steve Miletich (October 5, 2010). "Woodcarver was shot four times in his side by officer, autopsy shows". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  23. ^ "Autopsy report (PDF) on John T. Williams' wounds" (PDF). Seattle Times. October 5, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  24. ^ Steve Miletich; Jennifer Sullivan (January 12, 2011). "Inquest jurors split over Seattle police shooting". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  25. ^ Casey McNerthney (February 24, 2011). "Mayor: Sunday to be 'John T. Williams Day' in Seattle". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  26. ^ "Seattle police officer resigns after shooting". Seattle Times. February 16, 2011. Archived from the original on March 17, 2011.
  27. ^ "Did Q-13 Fox Suppress Police Brutality Video?". the Stranger. May 7, 2010. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  28. ^ Jonah Spangenthal-Lee (May 7, 2010). "I'm going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you, homey! You feel me?". PubliCola. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  29. ^ Pulkkinen, Levi; SeattlePI; Mcnerthney, Casey (June 27, 2012). "Settlement reached in violent, racially charged Seattle arrest". Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  30. ^ "Blogger".
  31. ^ Kirk Johnson (July 28, 2012). "Washington; Federal Settlement Is Reached With Seattle Police". New York Times.
  32. ^ SPD officer suspended for escalating confrontation, excessive force; Police chief’s discipline addresses the type of issues raised by the Department of Justice when it found Seattle officers too often resort to excessive force, by Steve Miletich, 10 September 2013, Seattle Times
  33. ^ PD fires high-ranking officer with troubled history; Donnie Lowe, a veteran Seattle Police officer with a troubled history, was fired on Friday, by Mike Carter, 13 July 2013, Seattle Times
  34. ^ ad Cop Gets "Punished" with Day Off; SPD Says Officer's "Completely Unprofessional" Threats Against Me—Caught on Tape—Deserve a Relaxing One-Day Suspension, by Dominic Holden, 15 January 2014, The Stranger
  35. ^ Holden, Dominic. "Hostile Policing". The Stranger.
  36. ^ City to pay $38,500 to two brothers who accused SPD officer of vendetta, by Steve Miletich 6 August 2013, Seattle Times
  37. ^ Seattle detective gets 90 days for cyberstalking, by the Associated Press, 8 January 2014, Seattle Times
  38. ^ Izadi, Elahe (January 29, 2015). "Video shows Seattle cop arresting elderly black man using golf club as cane". Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  39. ^ Miletich, Steve. "Seattle police chief fires cop who arrested man carrying golf club". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  40. ^ Kamb, Lewis (August 16, 2019). "Judge reverses arbitrator's rule reinstating Seattle police officer who punched handcuffed suspect". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  41. ^ Miletich, Steve (December 6, 2018). "Handgun reported stolen in 1990 found atop Seattle police officer's locker". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  42. ^ Miletich, Steve (January 29, 2020). "Suspect's suicide can't be blamed on Seattle officer's ruse, police chief concluded". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  43. ^ Miletich, Steve (July 23, 2018). "Two Seattle police officers fired for shooting at fleeing car in Eastlake neighborhood". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  44. ^ Miletich, Steve (December 7, 2018). "Seattle police sergeant demoted for retaliating against man angry about being towed". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  45. ^ Carter, Mike (March 14, 2019). "Police officer's 31-second scuffle with a handcuffed man has cost Seattle nearly $160,000". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  46. ^ Carter, Mike (January 16, 2020). "SPD fires officer over profane social media posts critical of illegal immigration, attacking Clinton and Obama". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  47. ^ Malcolm, Kim; Radil, Amy (January 17, 2020). "Seattle Police Chief identifies, denounces officer fired for social media posts". KUOW. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  48. ^ Miletich, Steve; Carter, Mike (February 28, 2020). "Seattle police officer fired after investigation found he repeatedly made derogatory and discriminatory remarks". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  49. ^ Carter, Mike (October 29, 2015). "Seattle will pay $35K to man wrongly identified in kidnapping, assault". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  50. ^ Sorace, Stephen (June 2, 2020). "Seattle cop removes fellow officer's knee from neck of man detained amid looting, video shows". Fox News. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  51. ^ Mazza, Ed (June 1, 2020). "Police Caught On Camera Pressing Knee Into Neck During Seattle Arrest". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  52. ^ Seipel, Brooke (June 12, 2020). "Federal judge orders Seattle police to halt use of tear gas, pepper spray on protesters". TheHill. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  53. ^
  54. ^ "Page Not Available" (PDF).
  55. ^ Berger, Knute. "Bertha may have dealt a blow to Seattle's police museum | Crosscut". Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  56. ^ SPD Blotter (July 25, 2018), Official Video: Seattle Police Department Lip Sync Challenge, retrieved July 27, 2018

External links[edit]