East Precinct: ‘Some officers are very hesitant to use force in situations where force is clearly needed’

An internal email to East Precinct cops from a watch commander obtained by KUOW encourages the officers who work on the streets of Capitol Hill, First Hill and the Central District to use more force as they patrol the neighborhoods.

“Some officers are very hesitant to use force in situations where force is clearly needed,” writes Lt. Bryon Grenon in an email dated September 18th. The email also indicates Grenon’s displeasure with officers who have said they are hesitant to use “appropriate force” because of concerns over paperwork:


The memo was sent before Thursday morning’s burst of armed robberies around Capitol Hill. One day after the email was sent, a suspect believed to have stolen beer from the Broadway/Pine Walgreens suffered a fracture jaw as police say he attempted to run from officers after he was handcuffed. A SPD representative told CHS that incident was not considered a use of force because the officer said the suspect’s injuries were caused by his own actions. Two days after the email was sent, an officer suffered facial injuries during an attempt to arrest two suspects near the Cal Anderson basketball court.

In addition to sometimes onerous levels of paperwork, East Precinct officers are also facing increasing pressures as the area’s population grows and recent years have brought slowdowns and freezes in police hiring. Mayor Ed Murray has pledged to boost SPD hiring in 2015 with budget to bring on 50 more officers. More than 1,300 officers already serve the city. Meanwhile, a leaked memo reveals that “most” burglaries in the North Precinct are not being investigated because of a lack of detectives to work the cases.

UPDATE: Following the spree of armed robberies around Capitol Hill early Thursday, there were no hold-ups in East Precinct reported overnight.

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5 thoughts on “East Precinct: ‘Some officers are very hesitant to use force in situations where force is clearly needed’

  1. Sigh. I am not surprised to see this email. Unfortunately, this is sort of my experience of SPD. Not that they don’t use force, but that they don’t so consistently and appropriately – either hesitating to intervene at all and ignoring clear law-breaking, or acting like tools and going way overboard when it’s completely unwarranted.

    Relative to NYPD (the other urban police force I have much experience with – and YES they absolutely have their own problems, as I well know) they seem underprepared and skittish.

    We also seem to have a problem with insubordination here. The cracks about paperwork are just too much, especially coming after the Officer Jokela ticketing stuff.

    I do think the East Precinct is responding to the local uptick in crime well recently. I’m optimistic about the new chief. The precinct commander seems responsive. I’m pleased to see they’ve been trying things the community has been asking for, like more foot patrols. I’m hopeful, but it is also clear there’s a problem with professionalism.

    Happy to support more officers, if that’s what’s needed, but also looking forward to the report on current staffing. If we don’t have enough officers to be on patrol OR to investigate crimes…. Well, I see what Tim Burgess was wondering about.

    • I completely agree with the assessment that the SPD in many cases avoids interfering and ignores blatant crimes while in a few cases goes way overboard with force. After living in a very high crime neighborhood for the past eight years, I have seen this over and over again. My neighbors and I have been confounded by their usual inaction sprinkled with occasional bursts of excessive force.

  2. Why are any of you surprised by this? You demonize the cops for using force even when it is reasonable and necessary, call in the DOJ who basically handcuffs them, they are threatened with lawsuits and termination for using force and now you wonder why they are hesitant to use force. I don’t blame any of these men and women for being hesitant at this point. Sure there are incidents where it wasn’t justified and there are bad apples. Ian Birk for instance Seattle PD internal affairs even found to be in the wrong along with other officers. You don’t always hear about the outcome of internal affairs cases however so many assume cover up.

    A lot of times, reasonable force and use of force techniques that are accepted by the Supreme Courts are not understood by an average citizen. When you roll up on a cop and see him or her punching someone, tasering someone etc, you don’t know what led up to the actions you are witnessing so many automatically assume that it is just a jack boot thug beating on some poor innocent citizen. You didn’t witness the part where the cop was attacked, was struggling with the suspect, fighting to retain his gun etc. You may see someone getting arrested for no apparent reason. Yet you don’t know that the cop has dealt with the person before, knows their face/who they are and is arresting them for a warrant that they have. I personally have seen a cop almost attacked by a mob of hipsters with cell phones for this very reason. Even after the cop politely explained to the crowd that he was being arrested for a felony warrant for robbery that wasn’t good enough for the mob.

    Thank you to Seattle PD for doing what you do in such an anti-police environment and dealing with this back and forth nonsense with those that do not understand police work. Hopefully one day this madness will settle down.