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Press Release

Assessments of Public Confidence And Community Trust in the Seattle Police Department Filed with Court

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington

SEATTLE – Assessments of the state of public confidence and community trust in the Seattle Police Department (SPD) were filed with the Court yesterday.  These assessments are the seventh and eighth – of 15 total – formal assessments by the Federal Monitor overseeing whether SPD is complying with the specific requirements and overall goals of the consent decree.  The public confidence and community trust surveys looked at progress towards a primary goal of reform: promoting public confidence in SPD, its officers and the services SPD delivers. 

An assessment of SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability was filed last week and can be found here.  Five previous assessments – which can be found here and here – related to SPD’s use of force reporting investigations and found that, with respect to four of them, SPD was in “initial compliance” with the requirements of the consent decree.  The two assessments filed today were not designed to evaluate compliance with specific terms of the consent decree.  Rather, these assessments surveyed the “many areas, initiatives, programs, and general characteristics that are commonly associated with community policing and public confidence in law enforcement – and [are] an evaluation of how SPD is doing with respect to each of them.”

“An overarching goal of reform is ensuring that the people of Seattle have trust and confidence in SPD’s ability to be responsive to a diverse community’s needs,” said Annette L. Hayes, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.  “The public confidence survey demonstrates that Seattle residents have increasing faith in SPD.  At the same time, it also helps identify areas where there remains work to do, particularly in isolated and marginalized communities, where positive perceptions are lagging.  The commitment of community stakeholders – including the Community Police Commission – to identify areas of concern and work with SPD to build strong public safety partnerships is to be commended.” 

The assessments of public confidence and trust in SPD include two elements.  The first is a statistically-valid survey of public confidence in the SPD and its officers.  That survey – which found the overall approval of SPD improving, disapproval of the department decreasing, and fewer troubling interactions between officers and Seattle residents, particularly African Americans and Latinos and notably with respect to the excessive use of force – was filed with the Court in October and can be found here.

The second element of the assessment is a qualitative review of SPD’s efforts to build public confidence with the community.  This review included conducting interviews over several months with SPD personnel; reviewing numerous documents and reports created by the SPD, Community Police Commission, and other governmental and community organizations; and interviewing community members from across Seattle.  The goal of the review was “to ensure efforts to implement community policing and increase public trust are aligned with recognized best practices in the field of policing today.” 

Overall, the Monitor found that, since the start of the consent decree, SPD “has not only fully embraced a community-oriented policing approach, but has demonstrated . . . a willingness to engage and join with the community in an effort that is impressive in focus and shows early signs of success.”  That said, the Monitor also noted that these efforts “are just a beginning of the steps necessary to cementing an organizational culture capable of building and sustaining trust with the community,” particularly in isolated communities. 

The full assessments are attached.

Aspects of community outreach and engagement have been tasked to the CPC as part of the consent decree process.  For instance, following also study and community outreach, the CPC recently released a report on SPD’s recruitment, hiring, and training practices addressing how well they promote engagement with members of the city’s diverse racial, ethnic, immigrant, and refugee communities.  This was the first of two reports the CPC was charged in the consent decree to complete.  The CPC has announced that it expects to release an additional report in the spring of 2016 that will examine the formal and informal channels of communication between the SPD and these same communities.  

Upcoming Assessments

The next assessment to be filed will address crisis-intervention and the dispatching of crisis-trained officers. Also filed in February will be an assessment of the Early Intervention System.  In March, assessments relating to supervisors, stops and detentions, and three use of force-related assessments covering officer uses of force, use of force data and officer activity level will be filed.


Updated February 4, 2016

Office and Personnel Updates
Civil Rights