Civil Rights

'Astoundingly Critical' DOJ Report Finds Widespread Use of Excessive Force by Seattle Police


Updated: Federal officials warned Seattle’s mayor and police chief at a closed-door meeting last night that the city must either correct officers’ widespread and routine use of excessive force or face a civil rights lawsuit.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been looking into the city’s police force for nearly a year at the request of the U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and others, the Seattle Times reports.

The result was a report described by an unidentified source as “astoundingly critical” of the police. Although it found a pattern of excessive force, it did not find that minorities were disproportionately targeted by police, says the Seattle PI.

The report found that a relatively small number of officers accounted for much of the problem, as well as inadequate supervision and a lack of effective procedures for reporting and correcting issues, according to the PI and a new Seattle Times article, which notes that the DOJ report mentioned “serious concerns” about the way minorities.are treated.

“The systems of accountability are broken,” said Thomas Perez. He is in charge of the DOJ’s civil rights division.

However, Perez also said at a press conference today that DOJ looks forward to working with Seattle’s mayor, police chief and other city officials to creating and implementing what he described as a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform. The Times says a court-enforceable agreement is anticipated.

A DOJ press release provides further details. Among other information, it contends that more than half the time that police use “impact weapons,” such as batons and flashlights, they do so either unnecessarily or excessively.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Arrested in Seattle, Computer Security Expert Creates Searchable Website of Police Dashcam Video Log”

Seattle Times (Dec. 6): “Seattle police plan major changes in oversight of use of force”

Updated at 1:59 p.m. to include information from press conference and link to related coverage.

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