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Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Civil Rights Divison Speaks on the Justice Department’s Investigation into the Seattle Police Department


United States

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us. The purpose of today’s call is to announce that we have alerted Mayor McGinn and the Seattle Police Department that the Justice Department is launching a comprehensive investigation of the SPD concerning allegations of the use of excessive force and discriminatory policing.

As you all know, the Civil Rights Division, along with U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan’s office, conducted a preliminary review over the last several months. Based upon information gathered during our preliminary review, we believe a formal investigation is warranted to determine whether there has been a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law.

When conducting investigations such as this one, we aim to gather as much information as possible from as many sources as we can. We will examine department policies and practices, review records and observe police officers in the field. We will talk to department leadership and rank and file officers. We will also engage with the community – a critical part of the process of determining whether violations have occurred and how a police department can be improved.

Our goal with this investigation – as with all of our police pattern and practice investigations – is simple: to ensure that the community has an effective, accountable police department that controls crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting.

We do not prejudge our investigations – rather we gather all available facts to determine whether violations have occurred. If we determine that they have, we will work with the city and the Police Department to develop a plan to remedy them. Our experience has shown that, when we have cooperation from a city and its police department, we can more efficiently conduct our investigation.

Effective, accountable policing is critical for any healthy community. The Justice Department’s interest is ensuring that the people of Seattle can rely upon their police department to protect public safety and respect their rights.

Civil rights enforcement is a joint venture between the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys. We have worked very closely with U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, a critical partner to the Civil Rights Division, who will talk more about the investigation.

Updated September 17, 2014