Calling the Seattle Police Department a “transformed organization,” the city of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal judge Thursday to find that the city had met the requirements of a two-year period to show it has remained in compliance with federally mandated reforms to curb excessive use of force.
Along with a 2018 ruling by the court that the city had reached full compliance with a 2012 consent decree, the request would dissolve virtually all remaining oversight of the police department regarding its use of force and other issues including biased policing.
“The success of the consent decree reforms and SPD’s accomplishments deserve to be recognized,” the city’s attorneys said in a 27-page brief.
The city would still present U.S. District Judge James Robart with a plan to address his concerns about police accountability measures. The city said it has taken significant steps to address the matter and will submit a filing responding to them by Aug 1.
Robart ruled last year the department fell partially out of compliance with the consent decree due to deficiencies in its accountability system. He cited, among other issues, provisions in the city’s contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild that allowed an outside arbitrator to overturn the firing of an officer who had punched a handcuffed woman. The arbitrator’s ruling, challenged by the city, was later overturned by a King County judge.
In making the request, the city said SPD is a “different organization than it was nine years ago,” with a “dramatic reduction in the use of force.”
“Today as a result of the consent decree reforms, more than 99% of SPD’s force complies with policy … and there has been a 60% reduction in the use of serious force.”
As of the end of 2019, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said that force of any kind was used in less than .15% of all dispatches. Last year, SPD officers used the level of force described as “Type III” — capable of causing serious injury or death — just 20 times, Best said.
In court papers, DOJ attorneys agreed that the city has met the terms of the two-year review period.