In a landmark ruling, U.S. District Judge James Robart on Wednesday found the Seattle Police Department in “full and effective compliance” with court-ordered reforms imposed on the city more than five years ago after a string of high-profile incidents involving use of force.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan addresses reporters about a judge’s finding that Seattle Police are in compliance with federal reforms addressing use of force and other behaviors. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Seattle police found in ‘full and effective compliance’ with court-ordered reforms.

…the ruling represents a major turning point for the Police Department, recognizing its accomplishments since the city entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department in July 2012 to address allegations that officers had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force and displayed troubling evidence of biased policing.

“This is a very significant and good day for the city of Seattle, for the Police Department and for the community,” Durkan said, flanked by the department’s brass and city leaders.

Robart, who has overseen the consent decree, granted a motion, filed by the city in September, asking that it be found in full compliance with the agreement. The Justice Department and Community Police Commission, a citizen body created as part of the consent decree, had joined in the city’s request.

The department began to move toward compliance under the leadership of former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, an ex-Boston police commissioner who was hired by the city in June 2014 at a time the reform effort was foundering.

The most significant finding occurred last April, when Bobb issued a report concluding the department had carried out a dramatic turnaround in the use of force.

Citing data and case samples over a 28-month period, the monitor found overall use of force dropped both across time under the consent decree and when compared with the period that led to the Justice Department’s findings in 2011.

In contrast to the 2011 numbers, there had been what appeared to be a net decrease of 743 incidents — a 60 percent drop — in the use of moderate and high-level use of force. Of 2,385 incidents, 39, or 1.6 percent, stemmed from the most serious type of force, including 15 officer-involved shootings.

Tim Burgess, the former Seattle City Council member who spearheaded reform and was praised Wednesday by city leaders, issued a statement on Robart’s ruling, saying, “This is such wonderful news. Lots of people deserve credit, especially the officers, detectives and civilian employees of SPD.

Seattle Times
Originally published January 10, 2018

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