SPD’s Investigations of Intermediate-level Uses of Force in Initial Compliance with Requirements of Consent Decree
SEATTLE – A follow-up assessment of the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) investigations and chain of command review of intermediate-level, Type II uses of force has found SPD are in initial compliance with the requirements of the Court-ordered agreement with the Department of Justice, announced U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. On Friday, January 27, 2017, Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb filed the re-assessment with the U.S. District Court and, in finding SPD in initial compliance, noted “significant improvement” and “solid progress” since his initial assessment of supervisors’ investigations and review of Type II uses of force.
The previous assessment, filed with the Court in September 2015, examined the documentation, investigation and analysis of uses of force by officers and found SPD to be in initial compliance with requirements relating to lower-level Type I force reporting and investigations, Type II and III reporting, and Force Investigation Team investigations for Type III uses of force, including officer-involved shootings. However, the initial 2015 assessment found that investigations of Type II force conducted by sergeants and reviewed by the chain of command “are not where they need to be” and that “[l]ieutenants and captains are likewise not yet identifying and addressing deficiencies in sergeant investigations of Type II force.”
“We know that effective oversight by direct supervisors, particularly in the investigation and review of uses of force, is critical to maintaining a high-functioning, accountable, and self-correcting police department,” said Annette L. Hayes, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. “The progress made by SPD’s sergeants, lieutenants and captains is commendable and demonstrates a real commitment to full, fair and rigorous investigations and reviews of force incidents consistent with SPD policies developed as part of the court-ordered reform process.”
The re-assessment focuses on the immediate supervisor’s response to the scene of Type II incidents and the proper initial classification of the type of force used (from low-level Type I, intermediate Type II, or the most serious Type III uses of force). It also addresses the subsequent investigations of the incidents by sergeants, the “chain of command” review by lieutenants and captains, and final reviews by the Force Review Board to identify any policy issues, as well as any issues with the actual force and tactics, that were not caught earlier in the process. The conclusion that SPD is in initial compliance with its obligations under the Consent Decree and SPD policy is based on a review of all Type II incidents from January through March 2016, of which there were only 27, which, as the Monitor notes, reflects the relative infrequency with which force is being used overall. According to statistics compiled and soon to be published by SPD, Type 3s and Officer Involved Shootings (OIS) are statistically uncommon events (e.g., only four OIS in 2016; only 13 Type 3s). This fact highlights the importance of having robust oversight over more common (though still relatively rare) lower level uses of force.
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 investigations, and the Force Review Board. The Monitor also has examined and found positive developments and trends in public confidence and community trust regarding SPD. Upcoming assessments in 2017 will examine SPD’s use of force and Terry stops, and the Early Intervention System.
In addition to the filing of the re-assessment of the investigation and review of Type II uses of force, the Monitor also filed with the Court SPD’s new crowd management policy and body worn camera plan. Those can be found: here.