Private study: SPD use of force is 'statistically rare event'

SEATTLE -- A private study of the Seattle Police Department found that, unlike an earlier Justice Department report, police use of force in Seattle “is a statistically rare event.”

“The police in Seattle use force at the rate of about 2.4 incidents for every 100 arrests,” said the report by Matthew J. Hickman, a former Justice Department statistician, and Loren T. Atherley of the Northwest Justice Solutions consulting group.

A goal of the study was to attempt to replicate the Justice Department’s finding earlier in the year that 20 percent of uses of force by Seattle police are excessive or unconstitutional.

Instead, they found only 2.4 incidents in every 100 arrests. The authors said they analyzed 1,240 use of force incidents from Jan. 1, 2009, through march 25, 2011.

“In the context of total arrests, this would equate to about 1 potential use of excessive force for every 1,180 arrests in Seattle,” the report said.

“Use of force is more frequent on weekends, and during the late evening/early morning hours,” the report said in its conclusions. “The West Precinct has the largest share of use of force incidents, with about one in three uses of force reported in that precinct.”

The authors said they “strongly caution that further research is needed to determine the overall utility of our approach, and in a broader sense, whether it is possible to identify the use of excessive force from administrative records.”

In an interview, Hickman said his style of methodology is not based on what would be upheld in a court of law.

“I am approaching it from a social science framework, which is about the experienced reality as opposed to legal reality,” he said.

To read the entire Hickman-Atherley report, click here.