Less than 2 percent of incidents involving people who are mentally ill or in some type of crisis over one year resulted in any use of force by police, the report says.
Seattle police resorted to force in less than 2 percent of all reports over a year involving people who are mentally ill or in some type of crisis, according to a new report released by the department.
The 25-page document, based on findings from “crisis” reports between May 15, 2015, and May 14, 2016, comes after the department released similar statistics for such cases last fall.
The agency began tracking its use of force against such people as part of a court-ordered 2012 consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the city. Over the past several years, the department has overhauled how it handles crisis intervention.
“These numbers show that officers have embraced, and are applying in practice, the de-escalation and CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) skills that are now emphasized in training,” the latest report says.
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The DOJ’s 2011 investigation into the use of excessive force by officers found that police too often resorted to force while making arrests of people who were mentally ill or chemically impaired.
As part of the consent decree, officers document in a form any incidents in which they believe someone suspected of a disturbance or crime is mentally ill or in a state of crisis, perhaps hallucinating or making suicidal comments.
Of the roughly 9,300 incidents in the report, officers used force in 149. That latter figure accounts for less than 15 percent of that time period’s total number of incidents in which police used force, which is 1,065, the report said.
Of the total incidents where officers used force against someone in crisis, 32 involved “Type 2 force” — such as pepper spraying — and two involved “Type 3 force,” which can include “great bodily harm” or “deadly force,” according to the report and the department’s police manual.
No specific details on the incidents were included in the document.
Of the thousands of crisis reports, more than one-third resulted in the mentally ill or intoxicated individual receiving medical help. Less than 8 percent ended in arrests.
Over the past three years, the department has boosted crisis-intervention training for officers, now requiring all to receive at least basic lessons, while hundreds of others take advanced training.
This year, special-training topics include “barricaded subjects” and how to best respond when subjects have “edged or blunt weapons.”
Also this year, department officials are working with developers on a web-based application for officers to use on their in-car computers or cellphones while en route to incidents, showing relevant contact information or background information on the person in crisis, for instance.
In February, Merrick Bobb, the federal monitor overseeing reforms to the Seattle Police Department, said the agency has taken major steps since the DOJ agreement that are in “initial compliance” with its requirements.
“There has been a real, tangible, and objective change in the way Seattle police are interacting, compassionately and with an eye toward treatment, with those in crisis,” he said in a statement.