Bureau Standards and Commitments

The Professional Standards Bureau's core responsibility is to ensure that the standards, values, and expectations of the Seattle Police Department are maintained through policy and practices that define the standard for professional conduct and embody the Department's commitment to ensure effective, safe, and constitutional law enforcement services are delivered to all.  In part this is accomplished through rigorous review of best practices and adapting new and effective strategies to address foundational issues that impact law enforcement.  These include but are not limited to:

  • Crisis Intervention
  • Stops and Detentions
  • Bias Free Policing
  • Early Intervention Systems
  • Accountability
  • Use of Force
  • Community Engagement and Input

SPD Settlement Agreement

Seattle has long been recognized for the programs that encourage and are sustained through community engagement.  Without establishing a partnership with the community, policing is more difficult and less effective.  That is why community engagement and input are part of the core values of the Seattle Police Department.   

The Community Police Commission  was established shortly after the Settlement Agreement was signed to provide a link between SPD and diverse communities of the city.  They seek to provide a forum for community input in as it pertains to delivery of police services.  The CPC is made up of community members who are selected by the Mayor and approved by the City Council and represents the many voices throughout the community that have ideas, talents, and a willingness to work together to find unique and lasting solutions.  

Use of Force

As part of the Police Foundation's Public Safety Open Data Portal, SPD publishes information to highlight transparency around our policy, process, and training regarding use of force and how it is investigated. To learn more click here  

SPD's current  Use of Force policies are a result of a comprehensive review and where necessary, the development of new policy.  The Use of Force policy is broken down into three categories:

  1. Principals underlying policies
  2. Weapon-specific Policies
  3. Use of Force Reporting and Investigations Policies 

PRINCIPALS OF USING FORCE

The underpinning of the SPD's Use of Force policies reinforce that Officers' actions should increase public safety, be effective and constitutional, and embrace principles of procedural justice.  In order to achieve this balance in the application of force, the following principles are the underpinning of the policies:

  • Upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Washington and defending the Civil Rights and Dignity of all individuals, while protecting human life and property and maintaining civil order
  • When safe under the totality of the circumstances and time and circumstances permit, use of de-escalation tactics should be used in order to reduce the need for force.
  • Sometimes the use of force is unavoidable, and an officer must exercise physical control of a violent, assaultive, or resisting individuals to make an arrest, or to protect member of the public and officers from risk of harm
  • Use only the degree of force that is objectively reasonable, necessary under the circumstances, and proportional to the threat or resistance of a subject
  • Each Officer is responsible for explaining and articulating the specific facts, and reasonable inferences from those fact, and how those facts justify the use of force.
  • The Department is committed to upholding lawful, professional, and ethical standards through assertive leadership and supervision before, during, and after every force incident.
  • A strong partnership between the Department and the Community is essential for effective law enforcement and public safety.

 

WEAPON SPECIFIC POLICIES

Weapon-specific policies that direct the use and deployment of all force weapons, including:

  • Beanbag shotgun
  • Canine Deployment
  • Firearms
  • CEDs (TASER)
  • Vehicle-related force tactics
  • OC (pepper spray) 
  • Impact weapons
  • Specialty unit weaponry
  • Hobble restraint
  • Neck and carotid restraint

The policies also include training and certification requirements for each weapon. 

USE OF FORCE REPORTING AND INVESTIGATION

SPD policies clarify and enhance the use of force reporting requirements, along with supervisory investigation and review responsibilities.  Use of Force is divided into three levels for reporting, investigative, and review purposes.  Officers are required to report all uses of force except for De Minimis Force (physical interaction meant to separate, guide, and/or control without the use of techniques that are intended or likely to cause any pain or injury.)  The policy requires officers to notify their supervisors as soon as practicable following any use of Type I, II, or III force.  Supervisors can always opt for a higher level of response than is required by policy.  

Reporting and Investigation of Type I Use of Force

    • When an Officer uses Type I Force it is documented and reviewed by the officer's immediate supervisor as soon as practicable.  The report includes:
      • An account of the officer's actions in using force
      • The subject's actions that led to the application of force
      • The identity of the officer who used force
      • The names of other officers or identified witnesses present
      • The name of the supervisor screening the incident
    • Prior to booking, releasing or ending the contact a report must be provided orally and screened in person by a supervisor.  If the subject is free to leave, they will not be detained awaiting arrival of a supervisor, however the subject may choose to remain at the scene to speak with a supervisor.  If there is any uncertainty or concern about the reasons or nature of the force used, or any injury, the supervisor will immediately respond to the scene, unless impractical in the circumstance.
    • The supervisor will determine if the use of force is appropriately classified.  The supervisor will also evaluate the incident for any concerns, if any are found the supervisor will address them with the officer involved.  If it appears that misconduct may have been involved in the use of force, the supervisor will ensure that OPA is contacted and consult the FIT team.

Reporting Type II & III Use of Force

For Type II and III use of force incidents, all officers involved must complete an officer statement.  The statement includes a detailed description of:

    • The reason for the initial interaction
    • What happened, including the words, actions, and/or threats warranting the need for force
    • The force used by the officer giving the statement
    • The force used by other officers if clearly observed
    • Any apparent injury to the subject, any complaint of injury, or the lack of injury including information regarding any medical aid or medical evaluation provided

Supervisory Investigations of Type II Use of Force Not Investigated by the Force Investigation Team (FIT)

When notified of a Type II use of force incident, supervisors respond to the scene and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident.  If a supervisor participated in, or ordered the force, he/she does not conduct or become involved in conducting the investigation of the incident.    To ensure a thorough investigation, the supervisor responding to a Type II use of Force is required to:

    • Examine the subject of the force for injury, interview the subject for complaints of injury and where necessary, summon medical aid.  If there is no medical attention needed and there is probable cause for an arrest, the supervisor may arrange for transport to a police holding facility or directly to jail.
    • Determine if a FIT response is required.
    • If there is an indication of possible criminal conduct by an officer, the officer will not be compelled to provide a statement.
    • Once the investigation is completed notification will be forwarded to the supervisor's Commanding Officer by the end of the shift.
    • A use of force supervisory investigation will be submitted within 72 hours of the use of force, unless an extension is approved by the supervisor's Commanding Officer.
    • The summary should provide a complete understanding of the incident from beginning to end, most crucially, when each officer used force, why the force was necessary at each point in time, and how each injury, if any, occurred.
    • A use of force packet will accompany the Supervisor's report.

Review of Type II Use of Force by Supervisors

    • When it appears that there is additional relevant and material evidence that may assist in resolving inconsistencies or improve the reliability or credibility of the findings, the reviewing supervisor should ensure that additional investigation is completed.
    • When it appears that the findings are not supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the reviewing supervisor will modify the findings after consultation with the investigating supervisor and previous reviewers, and document the reason for this modification, including the specific evidence or analysis supporting the modification.  Any supervisor in the chain of command may discuss the modification with the investigating supervisor and/or reviewers.  If any investigative deficiencies exist, the reviewer will initiate corrective action.  Every supervisor in the chain of command is responsible to assure the accuracy and completeness of the Investigation Reports completed by supervisors.
    • When the Precinct Commander finds that the investigation is complete and the findings are supported by the evidence, the investigation file will be forwarded to the Fprce Review Unit.
    • At the discretion of the officer's chain of command, or OPA in the case of potential misconduct, a use of force investigation may be assigned, or reassigned, for investigation to FIT or to another supervisor, whether within or outside of the precinct in which the incident occurred, or may be returned to the Unit for further investigation or analysis.

Type II Use of Force Flowchart

Force Investigation Team (FIT) Investigations of Type II and Type III Use of Force Incidents

FIT conducts investigation of the following use of force incidents:

    • All Type III use of force incidents except for firearms discharges (which are investigated by the Homicide Unit and reviewed by the FRB);
    • Any use of force that result in broken bones, loss of consciousness, or any admission to the hospital for treatment; the application of a neck holds; hard strike to the head or neck with an impact weapon (flashlight, baton, or other object);
    • Uses of force that potentially involve criminal conduct or misconduct on the part of the officer;
    • Uses of force referred to FIT by any SPD supervisor (and approved by the FIT Commander), the Chief, his/her designee, or OPA. 

Type III Use of Force Flowchart
 

Crisis Intervention

An overwhelming number of calls that police officers respond to involve individuals in some form of Crisis.  To effectively address these incidents, the Department is committed to a multi-disciplinary approach.  To that end the Crisis Intervention Committee was formed to establish an ongoing forum where individuals from police, courts, jails, hospitals and social service agencies could meet to discuss how best to address these complex issues.  

CRISIS INTERVENTION COMMITTEE

The Crisis Intervention Committee meets regularly to address issues impacting police services to individuals in crisis.  In addition to SPD Command Leaders, representatives from the Training Section and current Crisis Intervention Team members, the committee represents, but is not limited to, individuals from the following organizations:

  • Civilian leadership of the City government;
  • Public Health - Seattle King County;
  • King County's Sheriff's Office;
  • King County Prosecutor's Office;
  • City of Seattle Municipal Court;
  • City Attorney's Office;
  • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services' Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery;
  • Washington Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness;
  • Downtown Emergency Services Center;
  • Professionals from the emergency health care receiving facilities;
  • King County Jail; and
  • Mental health and homeless services professional and advocates or others.

CRISIS INTERVENTION SERVICES

SPD has a robust Crisis Intervention program that provides a wide array of services which include:

  • Training in verbal tactics with the goal of reducing the use of force against individuals in behavioral or mental health crisis, or who are under the influences of drugs or alcohol, and to direct or refer such individuals to the appropriate services when possible.
  • Crisis Intervention (CI) training to ensure that CI trained officers are available on all shifts to respond to incidents involving individuals known or suspected to have a mental illness, substance abuse, or a behavioral crisis.
  • Dispatches CI trained officers to incidents or calls involving individuals in crisis.
  • Ensuring that CI trained officers take the lead, when appropriate, in interacting with individuals in crisis.  If a supervisor has assumed responsibility for the scene, the supervisor will seek the input of CI trained officers on strategies for resolving the crisis event where it is reasonable and practical to do so.
  • Tracks information regarding SPD's interactions with individuals in crisis and provides this data to SPD's current CI Team.  
  • SPD reviews the outcome data generated through the process described above, and uses the data for developing case studies for roll call and CI training, recognizing and highlighting successful individual officer performance and developing new response strategies for repeat calls for service.  

CRISIS INTERVENTION TRAINING

  • To be considered "CI trained", officers are required to successfully complete a 40-hour initial comprehensive CI training and eight hours of in-service CI training annually; SPD's CI training addresses;
    • field evaluation,
    • suicide intervention,
    • community mental health resources, crisis de-escalation, and scenario exercises.
  • CI training often includes on-site visitation to mental health facilities and interaction with individuals with a mental illness.  Additionally, the CI training provides clear guidance as to when an officer may detain an individually solely because of his/her crisis.
  • SPD officers who do not receive the comprehensive CI training will receive basic training on crisis intervention.  This training includes a subset of the topics and training methods included in the CI training, and explains the circumstances in which a CI trained officer should be dispatched or consulted and how situations involving impaired subjects should be addressed when a CI trained officer cannot respond.  SPD consults the Crisis Intervention Committee regarding the curriculum and appropriate number of hours for the training.
  • In addition to police officers, 911 dispatchers are provided with crisis intervention training to ensure they have the skills to respond to calls for service involving individuals in crisis.


 

The Seattle Police Department recognizes that in order for a police department to be effective the community must have trust that the actions of police officers are fair and constitutionally sound.  Investigatory stops and detentions play a critical role in community trust and support.  The three areas that SPD focuses on are:

  • Policy
  • Training
  • Supervision  

POLICY

Policy 6.220 - Voluntary Contacts, Terry Stops & Detentions 

  • Defines Social contacts and non-custodial interviews as encounters that are voluntary and consensual; and highlights the differences between casual interactions, social contact and investigative detentions.
  • Prohibits investigatory stops if the officer lacks reasonable suspicion that the person they are stopping has been, is, or is about to be engaged in a crime.
  • Officers must specifically and clearly articulate reasonable suspicion when they conduct investigatory stops or detentions, or conduct field interviews for Terry stops.
  • Clearly states Terry Stops must be based on reasonable suspicion, must be reasonable in scope and duration, have certain limits imposed by law, and must be documented with clearly articulated and objective facts.
  • States the expectation of professionalism when making stops.
  • Requires supervisors review Terry Stop documentation before the end of their shift.
  • Requires data collection to help evaluate trends and address ongoing concerns.  

TRAINING

SPD provides all patrol officers with training annually on the following topics:

  • The importance of police-community contacts for effective policing and community trust.
  • The 4th Amendment and related laws; SPD policies, and requirements per policy regarding investigatory stops and detentions.
  • The 1st Amendment and related laws in the context of the rights of individuals to verbally dispute officer conduct.
  • The legal distinction between social contacts, non-custodial interviews, and investigatory Terry stops.
  • The distinction between various police contacts according to the scope and level of police intrusion.
  • The considerations officers must make in initiating, conducting, terminating, and expanding an investigatory stop or detention, including when an individual is free to leave, and when an officer identifies him or herself during a contact.

Regular roll call trainings regarding social contacts, non-custodial interviews, and investigatory stops and detentions are conducted.

SUPERVISION

Supervisors are expected to (absent exceptional circumstances) obtain and review his/her supervisees' incident reports and any other reports that document investigatory stops and detentions by the end of their shift.  The review is designed to determine if the officers' actions were consistent with SPD policy, federal & state law; and determine if the officer requires review of agency policy, strategy, tactics or training.  Additionally, data collection systems for investigatory stops, including the Street Check database and the CAD (Computer Automated Dispatch) system, are analyzed to determine whether policies and procedures are clear.

 

A foundational value held by the Seattle Police Department is that police services are equitable, respectful, are free of unlawful bias, and delivered in a manner that promotes broad community engagement and confidence in the Department.  Additionally, officers are expected to treat all members of the Seattle Community with courtesy, professionalism, and respect and do not use harassing, intimidating, or derogatory language.

BIAS-FREE POLICING POLICY

The intent of SPD's Bias Free Policing policy is to increase the Department's effectiveness as a law enforcement agency and build mutual trust and respect with Seattle's diverse groups and communities.  The policy was crafted in conjunction with the Community Police Commission (CPC), highlights include: 

  • An acknowledgement that bias can occur at both the individual and institutional level and the Department is committed to eradicating both with the objective of providing equitable police services based upon the needs of the people police encounter.
  • Every employee is responsible for knowing and complying with the policy.
  • Officers will not engage in bias-based policing.
  • That characteristics of an individual may be appropriately considered in limited circumstances.
  • All employees share responsibility for preventing bias-based policing.
  • Employees will call a supervisor to the scenewhen an allegation of bias-based policing is made.
  • Employees will document all allegations of bias-based policing.
  • Supervisors will conduct preliminary inquiry into bias-based policing.
  • To ensure transparency, an annual report will be prepared for the Chief of Police and the Public.
  • The department is committed to eliminating policies and procedures that produce disparate impacts.
  • SPD leadership and supervising officers will continue to reinforce to subordinates that discriminatory policing is an unacceptable tactic, and officers who engage in it will be subject to discipline.

BIAS-FREE POLICING TRAINING

SPD recognizes that training on issues of bias are complicated and critical.  SPD (in conjunction with the CPC) has developed and provide training on bias-free policing for SPD employees.  Training specific to police officers include the following topics.

Patrol Officers:

  • Constitutional and other legal requirements related to equal protection and unlawful discrimination. 
  • Strategies, such as problem solving, procedural justice and recognizing implicit bias, to avoid conduct that may lead to biased policing or the perception of biased policing.
  • Precinct-level cultural competency training regarding the histories and cultures of local immigrant and ethnic communities.

Supervisors and Command Staff:

  • What constitutes discriminatory policing under state, federal and constitutional law.
  • How to identify discriminatory practices when reviewing investigatory stop data, arrest data, and use of force data; and how to respond to complaint of discriminatory police practices, including conducting a preliminary investigation of the complaint in order to preserve key evidence and potential witnesses.
  • How to evaluate complaints of improper pedestrian stops for potential discriminatory police practices.
  • Engaging the community and developing positive relationships with diverse community groups.

 

Supervision

Not only has the Seattle Police Department deployed more first line supervisors to the field, officers are assigned to a single, consistent, and clearly identified supervisor. First-line supervisors are normally assigned to work the same days and hours as the officers they are assigned to supervise.

SPD also believes that training is central to effective first-line supervision. In addition to ongoing supervisor training, new Sergeants and those assigned as long-term acting Sergeants (60 days of longer) are given training to fulfill their supervisory obligations. Precinct Commanders and Watch Lieutenants are expected to closely and effectively supervise the first-line supervisors and officers under their command.

Early Intervention System (EIS)

Along with additional supervisors, SPD uses an Early Intervention System (EIS) for risk management purposes.  This system is not intended as a disciplinary tool, rather is used to identify potentially problem behaviors and deal with them through coaching, mentoring, and training. Specific triggers are established in areas that, when met, may indicate an officer is at risk.  Those areas include (but are not limited to):

  • Use of Force
  • Vehicle collisions
  • OPA Complaints
  • EEO Complaints
  • Vehicle Pursuits

Once triggered the intent is to provide interventions that assist officers in correcting potentially troubling behavior.   The policy ensures that:

  • The intervention strategy is implemented in a timely manner;
  • Data regarding the implementation of the intervention is tracked in EIS; and
  • If necessary, the employee's supervisor reviews the progress of the intervention strategy.

To learn more about the EIS system click here

Office of Professional Accountability (OPA)

DOJ found that the OPA system is sound and that investigations of police misconduct complaints are generally thorough, well-organized, well-documented, and thoughtful.  The Parties agree that SPD should continue to strive to ensure that all complaints regarding officer conduct are fully and fairly dealt with; that all investigative findings are supported by the evidence and documented in writing; and that officers and complainants receive a thorough, fair, and expeditious resolution of complaints.  

Reporting Misconduct and Retaliation

The Seattle Police Department has clear policies for when and how employees must report misconduct.  It is the responsibility of every employee comply with the policies and procedures that are set out in the Seattle Police Department Manual.  It contains specific language about employees' responsibility to report misconduct, and prohibition retaliation against employees, which includes discouragement, intimidation, coercion, or adverse action against any person who reports misconduct, makes a misconduct complaint, or conducts or cooperates with an investigation of misconduct.  To review the policy on employees' responsibility concerning complaints of misconduct click here.

THE OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY

The Office of Professional Accountability is responsible for investigating all complaints of misconduct.  The Office is led by a Civilian Director and is guided by very specific guidelines.  To learn more about OPA and to review their Operations Manual click here