Group of Seattle cops files lawsuit fighting use-of-force policies

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 9.26.07 PMA dozen East Precinct officers are among a group of more than 100 Seattle Police personnel bringing a federal lawsuit against the department’s DOJ-mandated efforts to create a new-era police force that focuses on communication over physical confrontation.

The suit, which the Seattle Times reports is not supported by the Seattle Police Officers Guild union, seeks to remove new policies put in place this year that dictate officers must “use only the force necessary to perform their duties” and “with minimal reliance upon the use of physical force.”

Though only 12 officers from the precinct that patrols Capitol Hill signed the suit, some East Precinct officers not included have told CHS they feel the new policies have made their jobs more dangerous and have helped add to the decade-long drop in policing in the city.

Other new policies coming into play this year as a result of negotiations with the Department of Justice are new crisis intervention policies that dictate new tactics for Seattle Police when dealing with mental health situations. An eight-month DOJ investigation of Seattle policing released in winter 2011 revealed troubling findings about the department’s use of force. Justice filed a consent decree and negotiated a plan with SPD to overhaul the department.

The majority of the 126 officers signing the suit serve in North Precinct or are assigned to the SPD gun range. SPD has budget to employ more than 1,300 sworn officers.

The suit comes only a week after Mayor Ed Murray named Boston policing veteran Kathleen O’Toole as his pick to lead SPD as its first female chief of police. Meanwhile, the city is also beginning the process to negotiate a new contract with the officer union.

5 thoughts on “Group of Seattle cops files lawsuit fighting use-of-force policies

  1. I am really baffled by this move. What are these people thinking? The DOJ implemented reform due to patterns of excessive force and escalating non-violent situations to justify that force. They did not do it because they thought SPD Officers had too many rights & too much protection. But just to play devil’s advocate here, let’s say SPD has grounds to justify this lawsuit. What then, are they doing to correct the patterns that brought in the DOJ in the first place? I would sincerely like to know because I don’t hear SPD Officers defending the rights of citizens to protect themselves.

    • Just seems like some sort of delaying tactic, and probably a poorly-executed one at that. Based on comments I’ve seen & heard elsewhere, most of the SPD who’ve signed onto this appear to be from North Precinct, and they didn’t even hire an attorney file the suit – they’re representing themselves, because, you know, Seattle cops are so adept at jurisprudence.

  2. SPD should be required to wear body cams at all times on duty, and not be able to turn them off (like the current body mics). They did it in Rialto, CA. The results?

    “The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment.”

    50% reduction in cops using force, far less complaints from citizens. Win win.

    http://www.policefoundation.org/content/body-worn-cameras-police-use-force

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