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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Monitor finds Seattle Police Department in Initial Compliance with Supervisor Requirements of Consent Decree

         SEATTLE – A formal assessment of the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) implementation of supervision-related provisions of the consent decree has found SPD to be in initial compliance with requirements of the Court-ordered agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ), announced U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb on December 31st filed the assessment with the U.S. District Court and concluded that the progress to date and “current quality and extent of supervision” within SPD in four main areas supports a finding of initial compliance.

          “Effective internal supervision is critical to the successful implementation of reform and to the successful management of the day-to-day operations of SPD,” said U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “The results of this assessment demonstrate that the Department is making progress in supervising, investigating, and counselling officers to help them do their jobs effectively and increase accountability.”  

          This was the tenth assessment conducted to date by the Monitor and DOJ.  Previous assessments found SPD to be in initial compliance with requirements relating to crisis intervention, the Office of Professional Accountability, use of force reporting and investigation (finding initial compliance in three of the four areas assessed), and the Force Review Board.  The Monitor also examined and found many positive developments and trends in public confidence and community trust regarding SPD. 

          The supervisor assessment filed today and attached below focused on four areas:

  1. The adequacy of supervision by the chain of command for a period from June 2014 through September 2016;
  2. Whether SPD personnel are assigned to a single, consistent, clearly identified first-line supervisor, also known as “unity of command”;
  3. The quality of sergeant training and ensuring that any personnel assigned as long-term “acting sergeants” receive specific training within 60 days of their appointment; and
  4. Whether SPD is deploying an adequate number of qualified supervisors to assure that the provisions of the Consent Decree are implemented, also known as “adequate span of control.”

          The assessment found that in all four areas, SPD was in initial compliance.  For example, the assessment found that the chain of command receives timely notice of and reviews and tracks uses of force.  It also shows supervisors are taking appropriate action with their officers when the use of force is found to be problematic, including counseling officers, initiating referrals up the chain of command, noting performance issues in appropriate systems, and referring incidents that may implicate policy violations to the Office of Professional Accountability.  Viewed from the officer’s perspective, the Monitor found that over 90% of officers surveyed reported receiving feedback from their sergeants, finding their sergeants to be “very available” to them, and feeling comfortable asking questions about day-to-day issues and seeking advice. 

          With respect to unity of command, the assessment found that 97% of the time officers are assigned to a single, clearly-identified supervisor, with each squad assigned to the same daily work schedule.  This kind of consistent management structure is understood to lead to better policing and better morale in police organizations.  In contrast, during DOJ’s investigation in 2011, the average officer saw his or her sergeant twice per week.

          The Monitor also found that sergeant training materials prepare their sergeants for effective supervision and leadership and that supervisors reported finding these trainings valuable. 

          Finally, as to span of control, sergeant to officer ratios, which are now at 1:6 on average across the SPD precincts, were found to be more than adequate and, indeed, continue to trend downwards. 

          Although the Monitor made a finding of initial compliance regarding supervision, the assessment also identified a number of areas that either need improvement – including the Field Training Officer selection for which SPD will be setting forth new criteria – or require further examination.  Notably, the previous use of force reporting and investigation assessment found deficiencies in supervisory review of Type II force cases based on a 2014 sample.  A follow-up assessment is currently underway to determine if the quality and rigor of Type II investigations and reviews by supervisors have improved over the past two years.  Moreover, the Monitor, as part of the evaluation of SPD’s search and seizure activity, will explore whether supervisors are sufficiently reviewing documentation of stops and appropriately flagging those stops that have incomplete documentation or for which officers articulated inadequate reasonable suspicion to make the stop. 

          Additional upcoming assessments in 2017, in addition to the above-referenced follow-up assessment regarding Type II investigations, will examine SPD’s use of force, Early Intervention System, and the use of Terry stops.

Filed assessment

Civil Rights
Community Outreach
Updated January 3, 2017