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Chief O’Toole Sets Expectations for “Appropriate” Use of Force

Use of force by police officers has been the subject of much discussion in Seattle and elsewhere in our country. As Chief, it is my duty to provide clear direction to my officers and to ensure that they have the training, equipment and support to do their jobs safely and effectively.

The Monitoring Team and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have expressed this same level of commitment.

Together we are reviewing the new Use of Force policy to determine whether it has caused officers to be off of the street for an unreasonable amount of time or resulted in actions that may have created concern for public or officer safety.

We are reviewing any incident that raises these questions collaboratively to determine if the incident presents tactical, training or supervision issues, or indicates a need to modify the policy.

I distributed the following message and directive to my officers this evening and believe that there is a genuine benefit to sharing it publicly as well.



Clarifying Use of Force

This memorandum is intended to address any misunderstanding and confusion regarding the SPD Use of Force policy.

  1. Force is a necessary component of policing and any force that comports with SPD policy, Washington state law, and the U.S. Constitution should be employed as needed.
  1. I am not aware of any injury that has resulted from an officer hesitating to use force under current SPD policy.
  1. I expect officers to take appropriate actions and not use the force policy as an excuse.
  1. The SPD Use of Force policy represents a consensus reached after months of serious negotiations involving all stakeholders, including line officers and their representatives. It was accepted by the SPD and ultimately approved by the Court in December 2013. It became effective on January 1, 2014.
  1. The Use of Force policy is not written in stone. As experience is gained, it may become necessary to change or clarify certain procedures or provisions. On July 1, 2014, the review period for the Use of Force policy commenced. The attached directive regarding Type I Force is an example of such clarification.


Kathleen O’Toole

Chief of Police

Seattle Police Department



September 26, 2014

Directive Number 14- TBD

Type I Reporting Requirements Clarified:

The Department makes the following clarifications concerning Type I use-of-force reporting and investigation requirements:

Only Brief Narrative Statements are Required:

  • Type I reporting is not intended to be comprehensive or burdensome. In nearly all Type I use-of-force cases, it should be sufficient to complete the form in Blue Team and write a brief narrative entry describing what occurred.

Handcuffing with Complaint of Pain but No Apparent Injury:

  • When complaint of pain from handcuffing is the only reportable force used in an incident, officers shall complete a brief narrative entry in the Type I Use-of-Force Report in Blue Team, noting handcuffs were applied, that the subject complained of pain from the handcuffs, what steps the officer took to ensure proper fit and address the complaint of pain, and that no injury was apparent. No other statement is required. A supervisor must inspect the suspect to confirm there is no visible injury, with the caveat that officers may not extend a detention solely to await the arrival of a supervisor.

Witness Officer Statements are not Required:

  • Witness officer statements are not required for a Type I use-of-force.  Only the involved officer and the screening sergeant fill out statements.

The Chain of Command Does Not Review Video For Type I use-of-force:

  • Officers Upload and flag in-car video (ICV) before going off shift. No ICV or other video review is required of the Sergeant or Chain of Command.

Pointing of a Firearm is Reportable Force; Drawing a Firearm, or Holding a Firearm in the “Sul” or “Low Ready Position” is Not Reportable Force. (8.300-POL-1.2)