The Seattle Police Department is moving toward “full and effective compliance” with mandated reforms, according to the latest assessment filed by a federal monitor.
The ninth assessment filed Thursday by the court-appointed monitor, Merrick Bobb, and his team, studies the department’s use of force, perhaps the most critical part of the multi-year reform process.
In 2011, the Department of Justice found a pattern of excessive and unconstitutional use of force in SPD. The resulting consent decree required the department to make systemic changes, including the training of officers, how officers reports incidents, and how they are held accountable for misconduct.
According to the latest report, the monitoring team reviewed random samples of force cases across a 28-month period, from July 2014 to October 2016.
It found that officers’ use of force, especially in the moderate to higher levels, has dramatically decreased when compared to the 2011 DOJ investigation – a net decrease of 743 incidents equaling a 60 percent reduction.
The study also found officers’ use of less lethal weapons has declined, especially with the baton. For the 28-month period, officers used their batons only 23 times.
"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," Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said in a statement.
However, low-level force incidents, also called Type I incidents, have increased an average of 4 percent per month from August 2014 to August 2015. The report attributes the increase to a number of factors, including the requirement to report Type I incidents, which were not logged prior to the consent decree. More than half the Type 1 cases related to pain caused by handcuffing.
The study noted two officers who were “outliers.” One was reportedly involved in 34 use of force incidents, and the other had 49. The report said some officers may be involved in these physical incidents more often by nature of their assignment.
The monitor’s tenth and final assessment on biased policing is expected to be filed in May.