De-escalation

Make your voice heard, submit comment on SPD's proposed policy changes

Purpose of this policy

This section determines that officers will use de-escalation tactics to reduce the need for force when safe, feasible, and without compromising law enforcement priorities. It lists de-escalation tactics related to communication (like a TASER spark display), time, distance, and shielding (like placing barriers).

Revisions SPD is proposing

In addition to changing the words "shall" and "should" to "will," it adds "pattern interrupts, when appropriate" to communication de-escalation tactics, and "perceived physical or psychological" inability to comply, in the consideration of whether lack of compliance is deliberate.

Read SPD's proposed revisions in full here.

CPC initial analysis

  • This policy should more strongly mandate de-escalation and make clear that use of force should be a last resort. It should also make explicit what constitutes a violation of de-escalation policy.
  • There are refences to compromising law enforcement priorities, but they are not defined.
  • The policy requires a threat assessment, but the assessment is vague and appears subjective.
  • If there is a team, each officer's obligation to de-escalate is "satisfied as long as [their] actions complement the overall approach." This is too low of a bar. 
  • The section states that selection of de-escalation options "will be guided by the totality of the circumstances with the goal of attaining voluntary compliance." The main goal should be protection of life, before compliance.
  • It allows for advisements and warnings, including TASER spark displays, "given in a calm and explanatory manner" but alerts that "warnings given as a threat of force are not considered...de-escalation." Although this caveat has been recommended by the OPA, it is unclear how to draw a line between a warning and a threat. We believe that this vague language creates loopholes.
  • It is also unclear whether de-escalation techniques are listed in order of priority. If so, communication and calming techniques should come first (before Taser warnings).
  • One of the de-escalation techniques is to avoid insults. Insults and anything short of professional interactions should be explicitly prohibited. The CPC is not aware of other professions where using an insult while in a work capacity is allowed. 
  • Pattern interrupts, new to this policy, should be defined and contextualized in this section.
  • The policy says that officers will consider if lack of compliance is due to a perceived inability to comply, such as due to medical conditions or disabilities. If the de-escalation techniques are in order, this consideration should come at the top.
  • Officers are to avoid or minimize physical confrontation unless necessary, such as to stop dangerous behavior. This should be defined and make no room for subjectivity and bias, to protect against the construction of any behavior as dangerous.

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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