General Policy Information
Latest Revision Date: 11/20/2013
Title 1 - Department Structure and Function
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: 11/15/2007
Department employees may make several citizen contacts everyday during the course of performing their duties. These contacts form the foundation for the relationship between the department and the community as well as the foundation of quality policing. While these contacts vary in nature, and each situation must be treated individually, the goal of the department is that each contact should be conducted in a courteous, professional and lawful manner.
These contacts, and any police actions that may result from the contact, are often subject to great scrutiny. Landmark court cases establish the boundaries for proper police conduct in this arena, and these boundaries must be carefully observed. Employees should be cognizant of the requirements of these cases and address the issues set forth in these cases whenever they are engaging in contacts.
Engaging in lawful contacts, traffic stops, Terry Stops, and arrests, generate useful, proactive tools that employees can use to combat criminal activity within their areas of responsibility.
Employees will be objective and professional when making contact with any person regardless of the nature of the contact or the enforcement action to be taken. Employees will apply the standards of Seattle Police Manual Section 5.140 - Bias-Based Policing when initiating contacts.
I. Contact Protocol
1. To the extent that safety considerations allow, employees will introduce themselves to all citizens that they contact. A proper introduction will establish the identity of the employee, the authority of the employee, and the context surrounding the initiation of the contact. This provides the platform for the lawful actions or requests made by the employee during the contact or the investigation. Introductions should be formulated so that they provide:
a. The employee’s name,
b. The employee’s rank or title.
c. The fact that the employee is affiliated with the Seattle Police Department,
d. The reason for the contact or stop.
2. The introduction shall occur as early in the contact as safety permits and will be given prior to the employee’s request for identification or license and registration information from the citizen being contacted.
B. Officers will ensure that persons are detained for only that period of time necessary to affect the purpose of the stop or contact and that any delays in completing the necessary actions are reasonable. Officers will explain the nature and purpose of any delay to the citizen.
C. To the extent that safety considerations and confidentiality requirements allow, employees will answer questions posed by the persons that they are contacting and will comply with the provisions of Seattle Police Manual Section 5.001 - Standards & Duties, should the citizen request the identification of the employee.
D. Closing Contacts
1. Once the contact is completed, employees should make every attempt to provide a professional closing. This is an opportunity to ensure that the citizen leaves the contact with the best possible view of the employee, the department and the profession. In closing a contact, employees will :
a. Return any identification, paper work and property obtained from the citizen
b. Ensure that the person understands when they are free to leave
c. Thank the person for their cooperation and understanding, as appropriate
d. Explain the results of the contact especially if the contact results in the reasons for the stop being dispelled or the person being cleared of suspicion.
e. If the contact results in the issuance of a notice of infraction or a citation, the officer will explain the options available to the person for disposing of the case and should identify the phone number that persons may call to have any additional questions or concerns.
f. Express regret for any inconvenience that may have been caused to the person being contacted, if appropriate.
II. Social Contact
A. A contact with a citizen for the purpose of asking questions and gathering information.
1. Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are not required to initiate a social contact.
2. The contact is voluntary or “consensual”. The citizen is under no obligation to answer any questions and is free to leave at any point.
a. As in all encounters with the public, officers shall treat citizens in a professional, dignified, and unbiased manner.
b. Officers should safeguard their actions and requests so that a reasonable citizen does not perceive the contact as a restraint on their freedom. They should act respectfully, attempt to build rapport, and keep the contact as brief as possible
III. Terry Stops
A. Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1 (1968) is the landmark US Supreme Court case on investigatory stops, which declares:
1. That a police officer may stop a person for questioning, if the officer reasonably suspects that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.
2. The officer is not required to have probable cause to arrest the individual at the time of contact, but must have reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity.
3. Reasonable suspicion must be based on objective or specific facts known or observed by the officer prior to the contact and that the officer can later articulate in detail.
B. Factors considered in determining reasonable suspicion for a Terry Stop:
1. The officer’s experience and specialized training.
2. The individual is located in proximate time and place to an alleged crime.
3. The individual is in a location at a time of day or night that appears unusual for the norm.
4. The individual flees upon seeing an officer.
5. The individual is carrying a suspicious object, etc.
C. The contact should be limited in duration, detaining the individual only long enough to confirm or dispel the officer’s original suspicion.
1. The detention and questioning shall be done in the general area of the original contact.
2. If the individual being questioned fails to accurately identify themselves or if information is gathered to further validate the officer’s suspicion, the detention may be extended. Officers may frisk or pat-down the stopped individual for dangerous weapons if the officer reasonably believes the suspect may have a weapon.
a. The officer must have a separate, reasonable basis for this suspicion. Some factors considered by officers may include:
(1) Crime involving weapon.
(2) Time of day and location of stop.
(3) Prior knowledge that the individual is known to carry weapons.
(4) Furtive movements.
(5) Suspicious bulges, consistent with carrying a concealed weapon.
D. Officers should always consider officer safety measures while conducting contacts and Terry Stops.
1. Advise radio.
2. Choose safe locations.
3. Request back up units if needed.
IV. Street Check
A. The field interview still remains an important point of contact for officers in preventing and investigating criminal activity. Field interview contacts should be documented on a Street Check to provide other officers and detectives with information concerning suspicious activity.
1. A Street Check can be completed even if contact was not initiated.
2. Officers completing Street Checks shall submit them to a sergeant for approval.
V. Terry Stops of Vehicles
A. Police may stop vehicles based on the same standard for stopping people. One practice to avoid is stopping vehicles for minor traffic infractions as a pretext to investigate unrelated crimes for which the officer lacks reasonable suspicion. If the stop turns into an arrest, and the search reveals incriminating evidence, the defense may claim the original stop was pretextual. Successful claims may result in suppressed evidence and the case may not go forward. See State V. Ladson
B. Evidence obtained through a Terry Stop of a vehicle is acceptable as long as it was a result of reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred.
C. All action taken in conjunction with a Terry Stop must be articulated in detail. This includes the nature and duration of the stop, any force used, recovery of evidence, handcuffing, or searches in the vehicle.
VI. Types of Arrest
A. Arrests with warrants; refer to Seattle Police Manual Section 6.280 - Warrant Arrests.
B. Arrests without warrants
1. A person may be arrested without a warrant for committing a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor only when the offense is committed in the presence of the officer, except as provided in RCW 10.31.100 (misdemeanor presence rule).
2. Officers may make probable cause arrests for felony crimes.
C. Administrative bookings
1. An administrative booking is when an officer makes a custodial arrest, fingerprints and photographs the suspect, and then decides to release the suspect prior to a physical booking.
a. When probable cause exists, officers should strongly consider booking a suspect who does not have a local criminal record. Suspects in this situation may be administratively booked if the crime involved is a low-level misdemeanor, which would not normally indicate a physical booking.
2. Administrative bookings require the same level of probable cause as required to justify a physical booking.
a. An officer may conduct an administrative booking in the instance of a traffic stop in which the officer cannot verify the driver’s identity.
b. The officer will transport the suspect to the King County Jail pre-book counter with a completed Superform. Advise the intake officer of the administrative booking, and standby while the jail staff fingerprints and photographs the suspect. Once completed, the suspect will leave with the officer.
VII. Alternatives to Arrests
A. In non-warrant arrest situations, and in the absence of a specific statutory duty, officers may exercise their discretion when determining to make a physical arrest or to seek alternatives to bookings.
1. Situations in which the suspect has been positively identified.
2. Incidents in which the suspect would not create a hazard to the community.
3. Consideration should be given to the suspect's employment stability, character and mental condition, length of residence in the community, prior conviction record, and the probability of the accused appearing in court.
B. In certain traffic offenses, citations may be issued in lieu of a physical booking.
C. In an arrest situation in which a physical booking is not mandated, officers shall refer the case to the courts by writing a General Offense Report.
1. Complete a thorough interview and identification of the suspect.
2. Screen with a sergeant if necessary.