Dramatic decline in SPD use of force since consent decree

SEATTLE -- New numbers show a dramatic decline in Seattle Police Department's use of force, which keeps the department in compliance with a 2012 consent decree and brings them another step closer to being relieved from federal oversight.

The department's use of excessive force and biased policing allegations is what sparked the consent decree in the first place.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice released serious use of force incidents self-reported by SPD between January 2017 and April 2019. It showed a 63 percent decline from eight years prior, before the consent decree began.

The city credited new policies and training that emphasize de-escalation for the drop.

The change is even more dramatic when you consider force that fails to meet department policy. When the DOJ first investigated SPD for 28 months between 2009 and 2011, they said that serious force was unconstitutional in one out of every five cases where it was used.

Eight years later, from January 2017 though April 2019, SPD reported that there were only 12 total incidents that were considered "out of policy."

While the City of Seattle self-reviews the department's use of force, the DOJ and consent decree monitoring team review and verify the data.

"These reports reflect the truly remarkable progress made by our city's police service over these last seven years," Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement.

The DOJ told Q13 News that the city could move for a court to terminate the decree in January 2020. However, the federal judge in charge recently ruled that the department is partially out of compliance with the decree over the way it holds officers accountable when they do something wrong.