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Statement from Chief Kathleen O’Toole on Use of Force Assessment

I want to take this opportunity to share with you the results of the Monitor’s assessment on SPD use of force, which will be filed with the court today and no doubt be the subject of much media attention. In short, the Monitor’s assessment confirms the data that SPD reported on earlier this year: of the hundreds of thousands of unique incidents to which SPD officers respond every year, only a small fraction of one percent result in any use of force.  An even smaller percentage of those rare occasions when officers do use force involve any force beyond low-level, Type I use of force, and the use of serious, high-level force is an extraordinarily infrequent occurrence.  Also, as bolstered by OPA’s annual report, which was delivered to the Mayor yesterday, in excess of 99 percent of all uses of force are categorically within policy.

Furthermore, these remarkable results are not the result of de-policing, as some have charged, nor do they correlate to an increase in crime, as some predicted would occur.  To the contrary, dispatch data show that officer productivity, whether in response to 911 calls or proactive patrols, is increasing.  Crime is down by ten percent over last year, city-wide.  The rate of officer injury has not increased.  In other words, this reduction in the use of force cannot be attributed to anything other than what can now be statistically shown:  officers in the field are de-escalating volatile situations with regularity and skill, putting in practice the training that has established Seattle as a national leader in policing reform.

The credit for this achievement can be spread throughout the department, but the highest praise goes to those officers in the field who have embraced the training and heightened requirements in reporting and review, and have done so under intense scrutiny. I want to share with you, in particular, the following paragraph from the Monitor’s assessment:

“However, the credit for this major milestone goes first and foremost to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department. This assessment is fundamentally an analysis of their performance over time. Their ability to meaningfully and effectively implement the use of force policies and apply the related use of force training on the streets of Seattle – while facing the unpredictable challenges that are part and parcel of law enforcement – is worthy of substantial praise. The Monitoring Team’s respect for the many committed professionals who serve, protect, and partner with the community to solve problems and make Seattle a place for all to live, work, and play is unwavering – but burnished all the more by the demonstration of strong trends and good performance. As this report elsewhere makes clear, police officers in Seattle are frequently tasked with addressing individuals and situations that the rest of the social service fabric has failed, left out, or left behind. Their ability to innovate, change approaches, and change the course of the Department while addressing these fundamental duties is commended.”

I could not agree more.

Thank you, to all of you, for your continuing professionalism, compassion, and dedication in your service to this City.

Download full report here.