Based on a randomized, stratified and statistically valid sample of SPD’s use of force reports from Jan. 1, 2009, to April 4, 2011, factual findings include:
- When SPD officers use force, they do so in an unconstitutional manner nearly 20 percent of the time;
- SPD officers too quickly resort to the use of impact weapons, such as batons and flashlights. When SPD officers use batons, 57 percent of the time it is either unnecessary or excessive;
- SPD officers escalate situations, and use unnecessary or excessive force, when arresting individuals for minor offenses.This trend is pronounced in encounters with persons with mental illnesses or those under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is problematic because SPD estimates that 70 percent of use of force encounters involve these populations.
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today announced its findings that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law. A letter detailing the findings was delivered to Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz.
The investigation, launched on March 31, 2011, and conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, focused on whether SPD engages in unconstitutional or unlawful policing through either (1) the use of excessive force or (2) discriminatory policing. The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that SPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Justice Department does not make a finding that SPD engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing, but the investigation raised serious concerns that some of SPD’s policies and practices, particularly those related to pedestrian encounters, could result in unlawful discriminatory policing. These practices undermine SPD’s ability to build trust among segments of Seattle’s diverse communities.
The Justice Department’s investigation involved an in-depth review of SPD documents, as well as extensive community engagement. The department reviewed thousands of pages of documents, including written policies and procedures, training materials, and internal reports, data, video footage and investigative files. Justice Department attorneys and investigators also conducted interviews with SPD officers, supervisors and command staff, and city officials; and conducted hundreds of interviews with community members and local advocates.
Source & Full Report here: