Use of Force Definitions

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Purpose of this policy

This section defines terms related to use of force (objectively reasonable, necessary, proportional), de-escalation, injury (great bodily harm, etc.), investigation, head/neck holds, vehicle tactics, and weapons. From the lowest to the highest, the levels of force are de minimis, type I, type II, type III, and deadly.

Revisions SPD is proposing

  • The section defines a stationary tire deflation device (stop stick) as a "tire deflation device designed to be placed under the tire of a stationary vehicle to avoid flight." It removes them from type II (not motorcycle), type III (motorcycle) and deadly force (moving motorcycle) and adds them to de minimis (no contact) and type I (confirmed contact and deflation). It does not specify if using devices on motorcycles or moving vehicles is prohibited. 
  • It removes "intentionally" from pointing a firearm at a person and adds that displaying or holding a weapon without pointing is not reportable force (comparable language was removed). 
  • It defines pattern interrupts as de-escalation techniques to disrupt the pattern or process of communication of a person to lead them in a more focused direction.
  • In factors to consider when determining force reasonableness, it adds "and the government interest in preventing the escape" to a subject's attempt to escape. 
  • In de minimis force, it removes "and are not reasonably likely to cause any pain" from control holds. It removes disorientation from type II force examples.

Read SPD's proposed revisions in full here.

CPC's intial analysis

  • The policy opens with force reasonableness being judged "from the perspective of a reasonable officer," emphasizing split-second decisions. We believe that relying only on an individual's perspective (which inherently cannot be verified) does not elevate oversight and erodes trust. 
  • The section lists factors to consider in determining reasonableness but does not specify how they are weighed. Risk of death or injury to person receiving force is not one of the factors, though it should be the first. "Seriousness of the crime" may be irrelevant; a person may have committed a serious crime but be complying. It is unclear what "government interest in preventing an escape" means and how officers are expected to know it. Officer training and experience has often allowed officers who violated policy to get only a training referral if they can claim not being trained. This erodes trust; if the public is expected to know every law regardless of experience, why are expectations different for officers? Is someone held accountable for not training them? Considering age, size, and relative strength opens a door for bias, as white officers have historically perceived people of color as a bigger threat based on these. Finally, "number of officers versus subjects" creates a harmful "us versus them" culture.
  • The definition of "proportional" does not define it but rather says officer will use "reasonable and sound judgement." This needs to be more specific, with parameters, criteria, and examples.
  • The definition of "necessary" says, "no reasonably effective alternative to the use of force appeared to exist." It should reference de-escalation options being exhausted. 
  • De minimis force includes using hands or equipment to push people back. This must not include using mountain bikes to push protesters, which should be considered a higher level of force.
  • Type I force includes use of stop sticks with confirmed contact. It should specify "with no injuries." Deployment of stop sticks with injuries should be a higher level of force.
  • Deployment of a blast ball away from people is considered type I force and there is no mention of blast balls near people. Blast balls shoot shrapnel and can cause ear damage, as when SPD deployed them near people in 2020. They should be prohibited. 
  • Pointing a firearm is the gateway to a shooting and should be a higher level of force. 
  • Deployment of a canine for compliance should be prohibited.
  • The goal of de-escalation is compliance but should be protecting life and avoiding force.
  • Definition of pattern interrupt is still unclear.
  • The Public Safety Statement mentions standardized questions that the CPC is not aware of.
  • Head controls that are not neck or carotid restraints should also be prohibited. SPD must justify the need for this. Prohibiting only neck and carotid restraints leaves a dangerous loophole.
  • Ramming, the intentional use of a vehicle to strike another, should be prohibited.
  • Approved weapons are specified and authorized by the Department. It should specifically say that they are specified in the manual (8.300 Use of Force Tools).
  • Approved use of a weapon is defined as use by a trained and certified officer. This is misleading since not all weapons have certifications.
  • Less-lethal tools are defined as "not likely to cause...death...or great bodily harm." However, the examples, like taser and blast balls, are not agreed to be unlikely to cause great bodily harm.

Comment on this policy

We want to know what you think. Whether or not you agree with the CPC's assessment, you can submit your thoughts on SPD's proposed policies by using the form below, emailing us at OCPC@Seattle.gov, or contacting us any other way. Due to SPD's current deadlines, we ask that you do your best to submit your thoughts by Tuesday, January 26th. 

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