The court-appointed monitor overseeing mandated reforms to the Seattle Police Department has concluded the agency has fully complied with key requirements of a decade-old U.S. Department of Justice consent decree and predicts federal oversight of the agency will likely end next year, although significant accountability, use of force and biased policing issues still must be addressed.

Antonio Oftelie, appointed to monitor SPD’s compliance, praised the department’s efforts to comply with the agreement, signed after the DOJ sued the department in 2012 in the wake of an investigation that found officers routinely used excessive force in making arrests, were poorly supervised and rarely held accountable, and showed disturbing evidence of biased policing.

Oftelie found SPD has largely turned itself around in the ensuing decade, according to a 150-page assessment of the department’s compliance filed with the court last week.

Police uses of force declined 48% from 2015 to 2021, Oftelie found. Officers are also getting extensive training in crisis management and de-escalation techniques, according to the report, and stops and detentions — in the past frequently undertaken with little regard to the law — now almost always comply with constitutional guidelines.

“Seattle has accomplished a great deal under the consent decree,” Oftelie wrote in a foreword to the detailed report. “The vast majority of SPD officers have embraced a new mission and values; worked to create a service-oriented culture; expanded knowledge and skills on crisis intervention, de-escalation and less-lethal tactics; and committed to new policies and practices.”

Oftelie said the agency is “close” to getting out from underneath federal oversight.”


Still, the monitor said, there are areas of real concern that must be addressed before he can recommend to U.S. District Judge James Robart that the consent decree be dissolved. Oftelie said the unnecessarily violent reaction by the department to protests after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police badly eroded public trust that must now be restored.

“SPD will need to mend some deep wounds around these events and assure the community they are prepared to justly meet such challenges in the future,” the report stated.

Oftelie said SPD’s accountability system remains a major stumbling block in the path of full and sustained compliance with the consent decree.

Robart has singled out the Seattle Police Officers Guild for working against the three civilian-run “accountability partners” — the Office of Police Accountability, Office of Inspector General, and Community Police Commission — in achieving individual officer accountability for bad actions. Robart three years ago ruled SPD had fallen partly out of compliance with the decree over the city’s decision to accept a guild contract that protected officers from discipline.

The incident that brought the issue to a head was the reinstatement through arbitration of a fired officer, Adley Shepherd, who had punched a handcuffed suspect in the face, breaking her cheekbone. Shepherd was eventually terminated but has sued the department to get his job back.

Robart has said the city must address the guild contract, which will almost certainly be a topic during ongoing collective-bargaining talks between the city and SPD, which has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2020.


In his report, Oftelie said the monitoring team “will be tracking progress on collective bargaining agreements and advising the court on progress and challenges to upholding accountability.”

He said in an interview that accountability “remains a huge red-flag area” for SPD when it comes to convincing Robart to release the agency from the consent decree.

Oftelie also said the department must address evidence of racial disparity in policing, noting that data shows Black and Native American people “are disproportionately stopped, detained, and/or subjected to force by Seattle police.”

While the causes of such disparities can be complex and involve numerous social and economic factors, Oftelie said “the department must remain relentless in its efforts to root out racism and bias within its ranks.”

Oftelie also said the department has failed to adequately track race in its use-of-force and stops-and-detentions reporting despite having the ability to do so.

Even so, the disparities revealed by available data shows that Black people are more likely to be the subjects of force — including serious force such as police shootings — than white people.


Police are more likely to point a gun at a Black suspect than they are a white suspect, even though the data shows white people are more likely to be armed.

“Having a gun pointed at you is traumatic,” Oftelie said. “Over time, these practices erode the trust of the community.”

Oftelie’s assessment also notes that SPD staffing, which is not addressed in the consent decree, is sharply impacting the agency’s ability to comply with its requirements.

“One immediate and critical issue is the number of officers available for the community,” the assessment said, noting that the department currently has roughly 960 deployable officers, down 34% from its authorized staffing maximum of 1,443 officers.

The reduced staffing has put core functions like 911 response times under strain, hampered investigations and “all but shelved” proactive policing plans in individual communities.

Mayor Bruce Harrell said the monitor’s assessment makes clear “that SPD has made — and continues to make — meaningful strides since the implementation of the consent decree.”


“There remains work to be done, but I believe our department can deliver on my administration’s commitment — and our community’s demands — to stamp out racial disparities in policing and eliminate unwarranted use of force,” Harrell said in a statement.

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the public safety committee, said she met recently with Oftelie to address concerns over the council’s Less-Lethal Weapons ordinance, which has affected SPD’s crowd-control abilities — a compliance sticking point — and is encouraged by progress being made.

The council passed an initial version of the ordinance during the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, prohibiting police from using blast balls and some other less-lethal weapons. A federal judge issued a restraining order preventing the ordinance from going into effect, however, and the council has since passed a revised version of the ordinance — about which Oftelie said some questions still remain.

Herbold said she “found it interesting that Dr. Oftelie concludes that there is continued sustained compliance in all three areas, but he does not recommend to the Court that consent decree monitoring end.”

Despite these areas of concern, Oftelie said SPD has achieved sustained, full compliance in crisis intervention, stops and detentions, and bias-free policing over the past two years, making the city eligible to ask Robart to release it from the consent decree’s oversight in those areas.

With the exception of the crowd-control issues, the monitor said officers have maintained full compliance with use-of-force requirements as well.

Oftelie said in an interview that he will in the near future present SPD with a 2022 monitoring plan that will lay a path for full compliance with the final requirements of the consent decree. He said he expects the city will be ready to ask for dissolution of the consent decree in its entirety sometime next year.