Judge OKs Seattle Police's New Policy on When to Use Force

December 18, 2013

Beginning Jan. 1, Seattle police officers will be operating under new rules when it comes to using force.

A federal judge on Tuesday accepted a new and comprehensive use-of-force policy that will, for the first time, outline for officers when force is appropriate and when it isn’t, and provide for detailed reporting requirements.

The policy, negotiated between the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) with the guidance of federal monitor Merrick Bobb, is key to addressing the findings of a 2011 DOJ investigation that concluded Seattle police resort to force too quickly and routinely use too much when they do. The Justice Department also found disturbing but inconclusive evidence of biased policing.

Approval of the policy by U.S. District Judge James Robart came two years and one day after the DOJ announced its findings.

The new policy marks a major milestone for the city toward compliance with a settlement agreement reached with the Justice Department 18 months ago to reform the Police Department. The agreement, which still requires additional reforms and training, provides a five-year time frame for the city to implement reforms, with an early out after three years if the city meets its requirements.

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