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City Releases New Reports Showing Dramatic Reduction in Use of Force & Continued Reforms in the Seattle Police Department

In 2018, SPD Officers Reported Using Force of Any Type in 0.26 Percent of 863,372 Dispatches; Most Serious Types of Force Used in Only 0.006 Percent of All Contacts

Reports Also Show That SPD is Continuing Significant Reductions in Use of Force When Contacting People in Crisis

A series of new reports filed by the City of Seattle as part of its ongoing compliance with the federal Consent Decree shows that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) rarely uses force, including when responding to people in crisis, and is continuing the significant progress under the federal Consent Decree. 

In its 2011 investigation, United States Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated that 20 percent of SPD incidents involving Type II and Type III force (1,230 incidents) were determined to be unconstitutional uses of force. The prevalence of unconstitutional force, as documented by the DOJ in its investigation, is what led to the Consent Decree, which was intended to address the unconstitutional use of force and gather more data regarding biased policing.

During the Phase II sustainment period that began in January 2018, the City continues to demonstrate its ongoing compliance through quarterly reports and three types of self-assessments: audits of its practices, reviews of SPD’s policies, and outcome reports that summarize policing data for the public. Quarterly reports must include recent data on use-of-force and crisis intervention practices, an update on the activities of SPD’s Force Review Board and Unit, and a discussion of relevant activities of the accountability organizations — the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Community Police Commission (CPC).

“Our Seattle Police Department officers have made remarkable progress that can ensure lasting reform. Over these many years, our officers have done everything that the Court and the Consent Decree have required. Through years of dedicated work by the community and our officers at the Seattle Police Department, SPD is now a national leader as it relates to the use of force, crisis intervention, and de-escalation,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “As noted by Judge Robart earlier this month, the City is on track to complete its work under the sustainment plan, be discharged from those requirements in a few months, and enter a new era of policing for SPD and the community – an era that will continue our commitment to lasting reform.”

The reports released today and filed with the Court overseeing the Consent Decree include: a report documenting its audit and review of Consent Decree requirements relating to Stops and Detentions; a Comprehensive Use of Force Report; and a Crisis Intervention Report. 

Key findings in the reports include:

  • In 2018, SPD officers reported using force of any type 2,252 times out of 863,372 officer on-views and officers dispatched – a rate of 0.26 percent; of these uses of force, the overwhelming majority (83 percent) involved no greater than the lowest type of reportable force (such as minor complaints of transient pain with no objective signs of injury, or the pointing of a firearm). These lowest level use of force incidents were not even reported or tracked until the Consent Decree.
  • Compared to a 28-month period from January 2009 to April 2011, SPD reduced its use of force in Type II and Type III incidents by 63 percent over a 28-month period from January 2017 to April 2019. 
  • In 2018, Type III, the use of the most serious type of force – force that causes or may be reasonably expected to cause substantial bodily injury – remained extraordinarily rare, occurring in 0.006 percent of all 400,804 unique Computer Aided Dispatch events.
  • Between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, SPD reported contacts with 16,574 people believed to be in behavioral crisis. During that time, SPD officers used force in only two percent of those contacts, maintaining the numbers reported by the Monitor in 2016. 
  • 772 sworn staff have completed the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training and all 1,364 sworn officers are required to complete at least 8.5 hours of training on crisis-related topics. 

“The women and men of the Seattle Police Department continue to show that they have embraced the reforms that have made the Department a national model. The officers on the front lines of all the complex social issues facing our community truly have demonstrated a commitment to continuously enhance their responses – using force at remarkably low levels,”said Chief of Police Carmen Best. “The department has invested in the people and technology to allow it to better monitor what is happening in every interaction, so we can always evaluate, learn, and improve. These reports show that the SPD is successfully charting its own path on modern, equitable, fair, policing.”

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “These reports reflect the truly remarkable progress made by our City’s police service over these last seven years. Our officers and the people of Seattle should take pride in these transformational numbers.”

Signed by Mayor Durkan as the then-United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington and City Attorney Pete Holmes, the Consent Decree required the Seattle Police Department to enact significant reforms, including: new use of force policies and trainings that emphasize de-escalation; a new approach to how officers interact with people experiencing behavioral crisis; new supervision and oversight with community involvement. SPD has met or exceeded every milestone set forth in the Sustainment Plan on time, or ahead of time. As a result, there has been a decrease in uses of force overall – including a significant reduction of the most serious uses of force – and a significant decline in force used against people in crisis. The City continues to address the Court’s concerns regarding accountability.