General Policy Information
Latest Revision Date: 3/3/2014
Title 1 - Department Administration
Title 2 - Department Employment
Title 3 - Employee Welfare
Title 4 - Human Resources
Title 5 - Employee Conduct
Title 6 - Arrests, Search and Seizure
Title 7 - Evidence and Property
Title 8 - Use of Force
Title 9 - Equipment and Uniforms
Title 10 - Police Facilities & Security
Title 11 - Detainee Management
Title 12 - Department Information Systems
Title 13 - Vehicle Operations
Title 14 - Emergency Operations
Title 15 - Primary Investigation
Title 16 - Patrol Operations
Effective Date: 8/15/2012
This chapter provides the philosophy for employee conduct and professionalism and serves as the foundation upon which guidelines and rules are promulgated. The content of this chapter is not all-inclusive; other chapters of the Manual, directives, and other formal communications provide expanded or clarified information. A thorough review of this chapter will give employees, supervisors, and managers an understanding of standards and duties as they relate to their work and conduct as a member of the Seattle Police Department.
Being an employee of the Seattle Police Department and, in particular, a sworn officer places all of us in a position of trust and high esteem in the eyes of the public. As employees, we have access to privileged and confidential information and authority that far exceeds that of other citizens. The power to conduct investigations, arrest, and to use force are specifically granted to the police through the process of democratic government. We must be ever mindful that concurrent with this authority comes additional responsibility and that our actions are subjected to review and oversight through a variety of systems not imposed on others.
The history of policing is one of working together with the community in order to have a safer society. Members of the policing profession are respected and admired by the public for they truly know and appreciate the demands placed upon all of us as we strive to protect them and preserve civil liberties. Our jobs require professionalism and dedication and it is incumbent on all of us to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Department and to constantly remember the special place we hold in society.
I. Ensuring Public Trust
A. To fulfill its mission, the Department needs the support and assistance from the communities it serves. One of the critical elements in creating and maintaining this important relationship is how the Department responds to perceptions and complaints from citizens.
B. It is the Department’s responsibility to receive and investigate complaints against its personnel and to conduct an investigation when there is information that an employee may have violated a law, rule, policy or procedure. In those instances, the Department will state the legal or policy violation when investigating an employee for alleged misconduct. When initiating an investigation into allegations of misconduct or violations of law not specifically defined in the Manual, the Department shall identify the related law, rule, policy or procedure violation alleged. Employees may be disciplined for proven violations of Department policy, procedure, or rule, or violation of law. The absence of a specific rule is not a shield against investigation into credible allegations of acts or omissions that are recognized as commonly held legal or workplace standards.
C. It is not the Department’s intent to interfere with or constrain the freedoms, privacy, and liberties of employees. Discipline will only be imposed where there is a nexus or relationship between the conduct and the duties, rank, assignment, or responsibilities of the employee, whether on or off duty or in or out of uniform.
II. Guidelines, Rules, and Expectations
A. This part of the chapter provides fundamental guidelines and expectations that govern the manner in which the Department fulfills its mission.
1. Chain of Command
(1) Employees shall adhere to the authority levels delineated in the Department chain of command. Employees shall obey any lawful order issued by a superior officer. Orders may be issued directly, or may be relayed through a subordinate employee. This section specifically includes published notices of mandatory training. Should such order conflict with any previous order, published regulation, or Table of Organization, this conflict shall be respectfully called to the superior officer’s attention. The superior officer who issued the conflicting order shall take steps necessary to correct the conflict in orders. Superior officers assume responsibility for the actions of subordinates who are properly discharging the superior officer’s directives. The ranks conferred upon employees via the Department chain of command apply while exercising law enforcement authority, whether in an on-duty or secondary employment capacity.
(1) Failure to obey orders from a superior officer constitutes insubordination. An employee is not obligated to obey orders of a superior officer when such orders are illegal or unethical; that represent unjustified, substantial and/or reckless disregard for life and officer safety; when the superior officer has been relieved from duty by an officer superior in command; when the superior officer is experiencing a manifest psychological crisis, or is otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated; or when other articulable and substantive circumstances are present that establish that the superior officer is incompetent or incapable of discharging the duties of his/her assignment. Employees confronting this situation shall, if practical, state the basis for objecting to the order to the superior officer. If the situation remains unresolved, the employee shall immediately contact the officer next higher in rank in his/her chain of command; the Duty Captain; or any higher-ranking officer (in that order). Employees invoking this exception shall be prepared to fully and accurately account for and justify their actions.
c. Responsibilities of Supervisors
(1) Every sergeant, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, deputy chief, chief of police and non-sworn manager or supervisor of the Department shall apply the standards, guidelines and rules of the Department in the execution of the oversight and management of the personnel assigned to them. Every sergeant, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, deputy chief, chief of police and non-sworn manager or supervisor of the Department is responsible for making and executing decisions within the scope and extent of their authority. The mere existence of a person of higher authority does not excuse a sergeant or above or non-sworn manager of the decision-making responsibilities that are inherent in their assignment.
d. Incident Command
(1) The principles of the Incident Command System shall be applied whenever appropriate. The three priorities of incident command, in order are:
(a) Life Safety
(b) Incident Stabilization; and
(c) Property Conservation
(2) While the IC System itself may be amended or modified depending on the situation confronting an incident commander, the essential categories are recognized to have universal applicability. These categories are as follows:
(a) Command, Control and Communications
(c) Planning and Intelligence
(e) Personnel and Finance
(g) Public Information
Refer to SPD Emergency Operations Manual.
III. Knowledge of and Adherence to Laws and Department Policy and Procedures
1. Employees shall be knowledgeable of and obey Federal and State laws, and the laws and ordinances of the City of Seattle. Employees shall be fully informed of the contents of the law relating to their decisions or enforcement actions by attending Department training and reviewing information provided by the Department.
1. Employees shall be knowledgeable of and adhere to the provisions of this Manual, and of all published changes or amendments to Department policy and procedures as promulgated by the Chief of Police or his/her designee.
C. Collective bargaining agreements
1. Employees of the Department, particularly supervisory personnel, shall be knowledgeable of applicable collective bargaining agreements, and local, state and federal labor laws (e.g. FLSA).
IV. Communication and Confidentiality
A. Through Chain of Command
1. Employees shall direct communications through their chain of command unless directed otherwise. If an employee believes they have information of such a sensitive nature as to require communication outside the chain of command, the employee may communicate directly with any higher-ranking officer, including the Chief of Police, and at that point the responsibility for any further dissemination of that information lies with the higher-ranking officer.
B. Representation of the Department
1. Responsibility for management of the Department and dissemination of policy and budget rests with the Chief of Police.
2. Employees shall not disseminate information concerning their personal interpretations of Department policy, investigations, crime patterns, budget, deployment or other opinions that could be construed as representing the Department or the Chief of Police. Subordinate employees may be granted authority to represent Department issues on a case-by-case basis, but only following delegation by their chain of command. Specific employees (e.g., Public Affairs Unit personnel) may be granted broad authority to represent Department issues outside their chain of command, or on behalf of the Chief of Police (or his/her designee).
3. Only employees holding the rank of Lieutenant and above may comment to the media on behalf of the Department. They shall provide Public Affairs Unit personnel with information about the request and, if time permits, contact them in advance to assist with an interview. All information transmitted to the chain of command or, where permitted, externally, shall be accurate.
4. This provision does not apply to union leaders engaged in commentary about the Department as part of their duty of representation. This provision is not meant to restrain an individual’s expression of free speech rights. When expressing their own opinions about Department policy or procedure, those opinions should be clearly identified as those of the speaker.
1. All employees shall maintain confidentiality of sensitive Department records, the non-disclosure of which is essential to effective law enforcement, as well as private information, including criminal history, criminal investigations, complaints and disciplinary investigations, personnel information and other confidential Department information and documents and not communicate such information outside of the criminal justice system unless otherwise required by Department policy, court order or other legal mandate, or by expressed permission of the involved employee.
D. Personnel Information
1. All employees shall maintain confidentiality of information from personnel files, including home addresses, home and personal telephone numbers, and social security numbers of current and former employees and shall not share information of this nature unless required by Department policy, court order or other legal mandate, or by permission of the involved employee.
1. Employees are prohibited from using a Department address for any personal reasons, including a driver license, phone service, etc.
Exception: Employees may use their business address for vehicle registration with the Department of Licensing.
2. All correspondence and written communication, including but not limited to, e-mails, memos, letters, and VMDT transmissions, is subject to public disclosure or discovery. All employees shall ensure that their communication is lawful, appropriate and professional.
F. Recognition and Identification of Civilian Attired Officers
1. Any employee in uniform who meets another employee (sworn) dressed in plain clothes shall not indicate recognition unless greeted first, as the anonymity of sworn employees dressed in plain clothes must be maintained.
2. Plain clothes officers shall properly identify themselves when officially engaging in public contacts with citizens, except where anonymity is essential to the performance of duty.
A. Employees shall be truthful and complete in all official oral and written communications, statements, reports, testimony, official administrative and employment records. Additionally, all statements and interviews given in internal investigations will contain an honest representation of the facts. The exception to this standard is where deception is necessitated by the nature of an employee’s assignment, the need to acquire information for criminal investigation or public safety, or an exigency of ensuring employee safety or the safety of others. The use of deception must be for a specific and lawful purpose and temporary in nature. Employees may not represent themselves in any way as a member of the media.
B. Sustained allegations of dishonesty may affect an employee’s ability to serve as an effective witness in court, and thus may be grounds for termination subject to the provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
C. One of the Department’s responsibilities is to investigate and assist in the prosecution of persons who commit crimes. Police also have an equally important responsibility to assist the prosecutor in preventing any miscarriage of justice. An employee shall promptly report information of which they have personal knowledge that he/she is aware may bear on or establish the innocence of a person under investigation, or who has been charged with or convicted of a crime, to his/her chain of command.
A. As a Department standard, employees shall be consistent in their conduct and adherence to law and Department policy. Individual employee’s actions that create a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest, dishonesty, criminal activity, or permitting criminal activity may impair public confidence in the employee and the Department.
1. Conflicts of Interest
a. Employees shall not engage in enforcement, investigative or administrative functions that create conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest. For example, employees shall not be the primary investigators of crimes where they are the victim, nor effect arrests – except in an emergency – of family members, business associates, or social acquaintances. Employees shall exercise discretion in favor of recusing themselves from any process that might reasonably be expected to create a conflict or the appearance of a conflict of interest.
2. Employee Associations
a. Employees shall not associate with persons, entities, and organizations where such association reasonably gives the appearance of conflict of interest in employee enforcement decisions or actions.
3. Misuse of Authority
a. Employees shall not use their position or authority as a police officer for personal gain.
4. Engagement of the Civil and Criminal Justice System
a. Prior to initiating a civil action for damages sustained while working on or off-duty in a law enforcement capacity or which arises by virtue of the officer’s employment with the Seattle Police Department, the employee shall report their intention, in writing, to the Chief of Police.
b. Sworn employees shall not apply for any criminal process, such as a No Contact or Restraining Order, regarding an assault upon themselves that occurred on-duty or while working in an off-duty law enforcement capacity, without notifying their chain of command. Sworn employees shall report any assault upon themselves that occurred while working in an off-duty law enforcement capacity to their chain of command.
c. No employee below the rank of Bureau Chief shall make any recommendations regarding the disposition of any pending court case investigated by the Department to any court or other judicial agency. This does not apply to agencies conducting Pre-sentence Investigations.
d. Employees shall refrain from making any recommendations to any other agency which might imply official approval or disapproval of that agency’s action by the Department.
e. Any employee below the rank of Bureau Chief who wishes to make any other recommendation may forward such recommendation, in writing, through the proper channels, to the bureau handling the investigation.
f. Employees shall not interest themselves in any manner in any civil action growing out of their official police knowledge or actions, except by due process of law.
5. Recommending Employment of Attorneys, Bondsmen and Business Firms.
a. Employees shall not recommend or suggest the employment of any attorney, bondsman, or business to any person during the course of, or as a result of, their official business as employees of the Department.
A. Department employees, and particularly sworn uniformed officers, are the most conspicuous representatives of government, and are legally granted significant authority to enforce the law and ensure public order and safety. The standards that govern this authority include conduct that is respectful, neutral, objective and unbiased. Specific rules and guidelines that relate to this standard include the following:
1. Exercise of Discretion
a. Discretion consists of the ability to apply reason, professional experience and judgment in decision-making. Employees are authorized and expected to use discretion consistent with the mission of the Department and duties of their office and assignment. The scope of discretion is proportional to the severity of the crime or public safety issue being addressed. For example, an employee’s scope of discretion in dealing with a minor traffic infraction is broader than when an employee is affecting an arrest on probable cause for a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony.
a. Employees shall strive to be professional and courteous at all times, whether in person or through other means of communication.
3. Traffic Stops
a. Employees will introduce themselves to the citizen, providing name, rank or title, and agency affiliation, and state the reason for the stop as soon as practical when safety considerations allow, unless the employee believes providing this information will compromise officer or public safety.
b. Employees will ensure that the detention is no longer than necessary to take appropriate action for the known or suspected offense, and that the citizen is informed of the purpose for reasonable delays.
c. To the extent that safety considerations and confidentiality requirements allow, employees will answer relevant questions the citizen may have concerning the traffic stop if circumstances permit, including explaining any options for traffic citation disposition, and name and serial number when requested.
4. Reasonable Suspicion Stops
a. When practical, an officer will attempt to explain the reasons for a reasonable suspicion stop if the suspicion for the stop no longer exists and, if appropriate, express regret for any inconvenience.
5. Duty to Identify
a. Provided that no investigation is jeopardized, no police function is hindered, and safety considerations permit, when a citizen requests a Department employee engaged in Department related activities to identify themselves (including but not limited to requests for name, badge number, or serial number), the employee shall do the following:
(1) Uniformed, sworn employees and Parking Enforcement Officers shall provide their name, and Department serial number verbally, or if requested, in writing, or provide a Department-issued business card that contains their name and serial number.
(2) Non-uniformed, sworn employees shall display their badge and Department identification card, and shall provide their name and Department serial number verbally, or if requested, in writing, or provide a Department-issued business card that contains their name and assignment.
(3) Non-sworn employees shall verbally provide their name and Department serial number, or provide a Department-issued business card that contains their name and serial number, and shall display their Department identification card if specifically requested to do so.
6. Prohibitions Concerning Derogatory Language
a. Words which imply derogatory connotations or manifest contempt or disrespect toward any race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin shall not be used at any time by employees of the Department in the course of their duties or at any other time so as to bring the Department or themselves into disrepute.
b. Profanity is discouraged, but it is understood that it will occur occasionally in a law enforcement environment. The use of profanity will be judged based upon the totality of the circumstances in which it is used.
a. Employees shall attend all mandatory training and meet all qualifications within the time period proscribed. In the event that an employee is unable to comply with an order for mandatory training, the following will apply:
(1) Employees who are on approved limited-duty and cannot participate in a mandatory training program because of their work restrictions shall submit a written waiver request on an SPD Memorandum (form 1.11), and an Insurer Activity Prescription Form (APF) through their chain of command.
(2) Employees who have been issued subpoenas shall be excused for that portion of the training that coincides with their court appearance.
(3) Employees who have missed any mandatory training as a result of excused absences, such as a sick day, shall make arrangements through their immediate supervisor to complete that training within a reasonable time frame.
8. Establishing and Maintaining a Respectful Workplace
a. Harassment because of a person’s race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, or political ideology, or that of their relatives, friends, or associates is employment discrimination. Such harassment violates either city, state, or federal laws. The Department will not tolerate any form of harassment.
9. Completion of Reports, Evidence Processing, and other Official Actions
a. Employees shall give priority to the completion of General Offense or other official reports and/or processing a scene for evidence unless there are reasons that necessitate foregoing these investigative actions.
10. Criticism of Orders and Others
a. Employees shall not publicly criticize or ridicule (verbally or in writing) the Department, its policies, or other employees, other law enforcement agencies, or the criminal justice system or the police profession generally while on duty or in uniform where such expression is defamatory, obscene, unlawful, undermines the effectiveness of the Department, interferes with the maintenance of discipline, or is made with reckless disregard for truth.
a. All employees share the responsibility of promoting accountability within the Department. Employees shall report any criminal violations of law or incidents of serious misconduct involving any employee performing Department duties that they witness in the manner directed in other sections of the SPD manual.
12. Secondary Employment
a. Employees holding the rank of sergeant and above shall not engage in law enforcement secondary employment that is coordinated, brokered, supervised or scheduled by an employee of lower rank in the supervisor’s direct chain of command.
13. Firearms Standards
a. On Duty
(1) Sworn employees must be armed with a Department-approved firearm and carry official SPD identification or be in uniform within the city.
(2) Exceptions to this requirement include certain assignments or instructions from the Department, attendance at certain training sessions wherein the carrying of a firearm is prohibited, and in certain areas such as jail/detention facilities, medical facilities, etc.
b. Off Duty
(1) When armed in the city or with their Department-approved firearm, sworn personnel must carry official identification while off duty and in plainclothes. Off-duty sworn personnel may choose whether or not to be armed.
VIII. Duty Status and Course and Scope Certification
A. The Chief of Police has final authority through the Charter of the City of Seattle to determine the on-duty status of any employee, and whether their actions are within the course and scope of their duties. Completion of overtime or other Department forms by employees does not establish the duty status of an employee of the Seattle Police Department.