City of Seattle Files Motion to Terminate Seattle Police Department Consent Decree Sustainment Plan with Judge Robart

SEATTLE (May 7, 2020) – After meeting the comprehensive reform and improvements in Seattle Police Department operations set forth in the Consent Decree Sustainment Plan, the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice filed a motionand corresponding memorandum to terminate that plan. In 2011, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) released findings of a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional use of force within the Seattle Police Department. Signed by Mayor Durkan as the then-United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, the 2012 Consent Decree required the Seattle Police Department (SPD) 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 mental crisis; new supervision and oversight with community involvement.

During Phase I of the Consent Decree, the Monitor conducted the ten planned assessments over three years, which led to new reforms at the Seattle Police Department. On January 10, 2018, based on the Monitor’s assessments, the Court found that the City has achieved full and effective compliance with the Consent Decree’s Phase I requirements. The Court then approved Phase II Sustainment Plan. The City seeks termination of the Consent Decree provisions assessed under the Sustainment Plan because the City has achieved and maintained full and effective compliance with these requirements for two years.

“The Seattle Police Department has transformed itself. The original investigation of SPD showed force was being used unconstitutionally far too often, and frequently involved people in crisis or under the influence. Nearly a decade later, as we submit the final report under the sustainment plan, Seattle police officers have become a national leader in policing and de-escalation with a commitment to true and lasting reform,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “Our growing city has put more demand on police, and they have met the challenge, even during our COVID-19 crisis. In our City, our officers have responded to a record number of crisis calls, yet force has rarely been used. They have met every metric set forth by the Court’s sustainment plan. Over the past several years, our department has created new transparency and reporting to accurately track and investigate uses of force while putting in place new policies and trainings, especially for individuals in crisis. Our officers continue to show their dedication toward building community trust.”

Chief of Police, Carmen Best, stated, “I want to thank the women and men of the Seattle Police Department for their hard work and inspiring dedication to the principles of reform that have brought us here today. This department is a different place than it was nearly a decade ago. The SPD has become a national leader in de-escalation, our response to people in crisis, and internal and external oversight of policies and practices. We will remain a national leader through our commitment to continuous improvement and innovation. The work is never done, but today we acknowledge all that has been accomplished.  It is an honor to work with the best police officers and civilian employees in the country.”

The Monitor’s ten Phase I assessments, together with the thirteen compliance reports completed during Phase II, comprise more than 1,000 pages and resoundingly demonstrate that SPD has achieved and sustained compliance over the last two years. In the motion, the City explains:

  • SPD has reduced the incidence of serious force by officers by 60 percent and virtually all uses of force now meet constitutional requirements, demonstrating that there is no longer a pattern or practice of excessive force.
  • SPD has become a national leader in crisis response training and its rate of using force in crisis incidents is extraordinarily low.
  • SPD does not engage in the “no suspicion” stop-and-frisk tactics decried in other jurisdictions, and the legality of its stops and frisks does not vary by race.
  • SPD and the Community Police Commission have collaborated to design and implement high quality implicit bias training and to study the sources and effects of racial disparity in policing.
  • SPD overhauled its patrol staffing and supervision to ensure that all patrol officers have a consistent, highly trained supervisor.
  • The Office of Police Accountability conducts thorough, complete investigations and has adopted key recommendations from the Monitor and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington, will now be considered by Judge James Robart. The City intends to respond to the Court’s May 21, 2019 order relating to accountability and discipline by August 1, 2020.