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
See the interim policy in Directive 13-00049 (in the eDirectives system), which modifies this Manual section.
Effective Date: 3/26/2010
RCW 9A.16.040, 9A.16.020, 70.96A.120
An officer’s decision to use force, particularly deadly force, is one of the most important decisions he or she makes as a law enforcement officer. The decisions of when, which type, and how the force is used are complicated and very often made in split seconds. Department training is critical and each year, through such courses as street skills and qualification, the knowledge, skills and techniques that an officer needs to be safe and to protect the public are taught or reinforced.
The Department has a duty and an obligation to provide the training and tools officers need in this area, since we are the only governmental employees empowered to use lawful force. The Department has a responsibility to carefully monitor and review each use of force, to ensure that the force was within the parameters of our policies and law, and to ensure that lessons learned from real experiences are included in training.
As an officer, you have a responsibility to maintain your proficiency and skills in using force and in proper arrest and control techniques. Your fitness, command presence, and thinking and planning tactically as you respond to calls can be critical in ensuring your safety and the safety of other officers and the public.
Supervisors have an important responsibility in reviewing use of force situations and in correcting and coaching officers in this area.
Officers may, in the performance of their official duties, use only the amount of force necessary and reasonable to effect the lawful purpose intended. When determining the necessity for force and the amount of force required, officers shall consider known circumstances, including, but not limited to, the level of threat or resistance presented by the subject, the danger to the community, and the seriousness of the crime.
The use of force by officers is authorized by RCW sections 9A.16.020 Use Of Force – When Lawful; RCW 9A.16.040 Justifiable Homicide Or Use Of Deadly Force By Public Officer, Peace Officer Or Person Aiding; and RCW 70.96A.120(2) Peace Officer Duties. Use of force, to include deadly force, less lethal force, or any other force option, may not be used where statutory requirements for the use of force cannot be satisfied.
To the extent that the Department’s use of force policy may contain additional provisions not addressed in state law, such provisions are not intended, nor may they be construed or applied, to create a higher standard of care or a duty toward any person or to provide a basis for criminal or civil liability against the City, its officials or individual police officers. Violations of the policy may result in discipline. This policy applies to all Manual Sections dealing with the application of any level of force.
A. Necessary: No reasonably effective alternative to the use of force appeared to exist, and the amount of force used was reasonable to effect the lawful purpose intended.
B. Deadly Force: The intentional application of force through the use of firearms or any other means reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury. (RCW 9A.16.010)
C. Neck Hold: A general term for two different types of holds: Note: the use of neck holds is considered deadly force.
1. Bar-arm control hold: a hold that inhibits breathing by compression of the airway in the neck.
2. Carotid restraint hold: a hold that inhibits blood flow by compression of the blood vessels in the neck.
D. Less Lethal force: A level of force such that the outcome is not intended to cause death. Includes the TASER, the baton or flashlight, the beanbag shotgun, OC spray, or other riot control agents.
E. Physical Force: Any use of physical force other than that which is considered deadly or less lethal force, which causes an injury, could reasonably be expected to cause an injury, or results in a complaint of injury. This definition includes placing a subject into a “Full Restraint Position”.
1. Unless they fall within the definition outlined above, the following actions are not considered “physical force”:
a. Unholstering, and/or displaying, a firearm or less lethal device while executing lawful duties.
b. Escorting or moving a non-resisting subject.
c. Handcuffing with no or minimal resistance.
d. Approved crowd control tactics during demonstrations.
F. Violent Felony: That felony in which a suspect uses physical force likely to result in serious bodily injury or is armed with a weapon, implies a weapon or threatens the use of a weapon. A violent felony includes, but is not limited to, the following offenses: Murder, Kidnapping, Assault in the first or second degree, Robbery, Rape in the first or second degree, Arson or bombing of an occupied structure, and Burglary in the first degree.
G. Bodily or Physical Injury: Significant physical pain, illness, or impairment of physical condition. (SMC 12A.02.150)
H. Substantial bodily harm: An injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, loss or impairment of any body part or organ, or which fractures any body part. (RCW 9A.04.110)
I. Great bodily harm: An injury which causes serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of any body part, or which creates a probability of death. (RCW 9A.04.110)
II. Medical Aid
A. If needed, medical aid and/or emergency medical service shall be rendered as soon as possible after any use of force.
B. Some circumstances warrant an on-scene medical evaluation at the site of a force application. Officers should consider those circumstances to include use of force on a very young or very old subject, where the officer has credible information on a subjects preexisting medical condition, on a subject found to have a special medical condition (for example, pregnancy) or a debilitating illness, or on a subject whose demeanor and response required any application of force resulting in apparent significant injury.
C. In situations where three or more TASER applications were required, and/or the above noted circumstances exist, an on-scene medical evaluation by the Seattle Fire Department shall be performed to determine if an underlying cause for the subjects demeanor and resistance may trigger unexpected health risks.
D. An on-duty supervisor shall be notified of any use of force related medical aid and/or emergency medical service. Absent extenuating circumstances, a supervisor shall respond to the location of any use of force related on-scene medical evaluation.
III. Discharge of a Firearm at an Animal
A. An officer may discharge a firearm at an animal when necessary in self-defense, defense of another person, or to provide for the safety of the general public.
B. An officer may discharge a firearm at an animal when the animal is so critically injured that humanity requires relieving it from further suffering, and an Animal Control officer is not immediately available. An officer should obtain prior supervisory approval, when practical, under these circumstances.
IV. Removal from Line Duty Assignment
A. Any officer whose action or use of force results in substantial or great bodily harm shall be removed from line duty assignment until review of the incident is completed.
V. Administrative Leave
A. Any officer using or directly involved in the application of deadly force shall be placed on administrative leave with pay pending review; except that, in instances of firearm discharges at animals, a lieutenant or above shall review the circumstances surrounding the application of force and make the determination to place the officer on administrative leave or return him/her to duty.
VI. Use of Deadly Force
A. Deadly force shall only be used when the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or a threat of serious physical harm to another person, and the officer reasonably believes that a lesser degree of force is inadequate.
B. An officer may consider the use of deadly force in the following circumstances only when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect, if not apprehended, poses a threat of serious physical harm or death to the officer or others.
1. To arrest or apprehend a person whom the officer reasonably believes has committed, has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a violent felony.
C. If a decision has been made to employ deadly force, the officer shall, whenever possible, identify him or herself and demand that the subject stop (example: “stop-police”).
D. RCW 9A.16 establishes a higher standard for police officers than the private citizen in the application of deadly force.
VII. Discharge of Firearms
A. An officer shall not discharge a firearm on-duty or off-duty for other than lawful purposes.
B. While engaged in the performance of their official duties, officers may discharge a firearm at a person when the use of deadly force is justifiable.
C. An officer will not be criticized or disciplined by the Department for a decision not to employ the use of a firearm to arrest, apprehend, or prevent the escape of a suspect even though the use of a firearm is justifiable.
D. Officers shall not fire warning shots.
VIII. Discharge of Firearms from or At a Moving Vehicle
A. Discharging a firearm from or at a moving vehicle shall only be done in the following circumstances and only when all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or deemed unacceptable. Firing at or from a moving vehicle can often only increase the risk of harm to other officers or citizens. Accuracy is severely impacted when firing from a moving vehicle; firing at a moving vehicle will have very little impact on stopping the vehicle. Disabling the driver will most likely only result in an uncontrolled vehicle, and the likelihood of injury to occupants of the vehicle (who may not be involved in a crime) is increased when the vehicle is either out of control or shots are fired into the passenger compartment.
1. An officer shall not discharge a firearm from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the officer or another person by means other than a moving vehicle (e.g. fired upon), and the risks are outweighed by the need to use deadly physical force.
2. An officer shall not discharge a firearm at the driver, occupants, or a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the officer or another person by means other than a moving vehicle, or, the moving vehicle poses an imminent and ongoing threat of substantial physical harm to the officer or another person from which there is no reasonable means to escape and the risks are outweighed by the need to use deadly physical force. Once the threat of the moving vehicle ceases, an officer shall not discharge his or her firearm.
3. Officers shall not intentionally place themselves in a vehicle’s path, to either the front or the rear. If they find themselves in danger from a moving vehicle, they shall attempt to move out of the way, if possible, rather than discharging their firearm. Firing at a moving vehicle will not, in most circumstances, stop the vehicle. Further, should the driver be wounded or killed, the vehicle may still continue in motion.
IX. Use of Neck Holds
A. The use of neck holds, such as the carotid restraint hold and the bar-arm control hold shall be considered deadly force.
X. Use of Less Lethal Force
A. Less lethal devices provide officers with alternative resolutions short of the use of deadly force. In deciding to deploy any less lethal force option, officers should carefully evaluate conditions and factors they know, or have reason to believe, may affect a subject’s response to the application of force or may increase the secondary risks (such as injuries caused by a fall) of the force application.
Less lethal devices are not intended as the first response to potential lethal situations. In no situation are officers required to use less force than is being threatened by a subject. In the interest of public safety, less lethal options shall not be employed against lethal threats except when lethal cover is available and in place, to provide protection for the officers employing these tools, as well as innocent parties who are not involved.
B. Less Lethal devices may be used, when necessary:
1. To overcome a subject’s combative intent, active physical resistance, and/or assaultive behavior
2. To control, disable or subdue persons bent on harming themselves or others and/or
3. To provide self-defense.
C An officer is justified in using less lethal force in circumstances where an officer reasonable believes that other force options would be ineffective or impractical.
D. Only officers who have successfully completed a training course designated by the Captain of the Education & Training Section in the use and deployment of less lethal weapons will be permitted to deploy such weapons.
1. The Department will provide officers, at a minimum, biannual training in the use of less lethal weapons. This training will also include the use of OC spray and impact weapons.
E. Only Department authorized less lethal options and equipment may be used. At this time, the TASER, Department issued OC spray, specialty Patrol C.A.R.T. (Chemical Agent Response Team) munitions, impact weapons (including the expandable baton), and the beanbag round for the Remington 870 shotgun, are approved for use by appropriately trained patrol officers.
F. Personnel assigned OC spray, Patrol C.A.R.T or TASER less lethal force options are authorized to use these agents or devices during demonstrations, consistent with Department policy, unless otherwise directed by a Supervisor or the Incident Commander. Officers should weigh the capabilities and limitations of these force options in a crowd control setting. Less lethal force, specifically OC spray (Oleoresin Capsicum) or other riot control agents, shall not ordinarily be used to overcome passive resistance by nonviolent and/or peaceful protesters, absent additional compelling factors, or unless previously approved by the Incident Commander.
1. The Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, or designee, has the responsibility to deploy crowd dispersal chemical agents and/or Less Lethal devices during a demonstration. The Incident Commander shall be given authority to direct the use of chemical agents and/or less lethal devices from an Assistant Chief.
2. Each Precinct will maintain an emergency supply of chemical agents and less lethal devices to address an emergent life safety situation where there is insufficient time to obtain command approval or deploy the SWAT Team. The use of chemical agents and/or Patrol C.A.R.T force options requires approval of a trained supervisor and/or Watch Lieutenant. It is also required that any personnel using the agent or device has completed all requisite training, as established by the Department’s Education & Training Section. Inventory control protocols and overall management of these emergency kits will be the responsibility of the Patrol Operations Bureau. Precinct management of each kit shall be assigned to the Precinct Captain, as delegated to the Watch and Operations Lieutenants.
a. The ATF requires that explosive munitions such as the C.A.R.T. blast ball grenades be stored using a double layer of security access.
G. At all times, in the event of an immediate life safety situation where there is insufficient time to obtain command approval or deploy the SWAT Team, a sworn officer has the authority to use necessary force to address the life safety crisis. This use of force may include chemical agents and/or other Less Lethal devices.
XI. Reporting the Use of Force-when required
A. Whenever an officer performing any law enforcement related activity uses deadly force, physical force or less lethal force as defined in Section I of this policy (on- or off-duty, inside or outside the City), the officer shall be required to complete a Use of Force Statement (form 9.27).
1. The reporting of the use of force for OC spray, impact munitions, the TASER, or Patrol C.A.R.T. is required, regardless of whether or not the subject is struck, affected or taken into custody.
XII. Reporting Responsibilities
1. Notify an on-duty supervisor. Request the supervisor’s presence at the scene if three or more TASER applications were required, and/or circumstances requiring an on-scene medical evaluation exist.
2. Complete a General Offense Report with an Officer Statement, if necessary, on the MRE and submit it for approval.
3. Notify a supervisor in person of the need to approve the General Offense Report and to route an Alert VMAIL.
4. Complete a Use of Force Statement (form 9.27) with the following preface: “This is a true and involuntary statement given by me in compliance with Section 6.240 of the Seattle Police Department Manual.”
NOTE: No other language will be acceptable.
5. At a minimum, include the following information in the statement:
a. A detailed description of the incident circumstances, and the words, actions and/or threat posed by the suspect warranting the need for force.
b. A detailed description of the force used, to include descriptive information regarding the use of any less lethal device/tool, i.e. TASER and Patrol C.A.R.T., and related serial numbers.
c. A description of any apparent injury to the suspect, any complaint of injury, or the absence of injury. Include information regarding any medical aid or on-scene medical evaluation provided.
d. Documentation of the in-person supervisory screening.
6. Complete a Hazard Report (form 5.38) if the suspect combatively resists or is physically aggressive toward an officer and the officer is reasonably certain the suspect is attempting to overpower, disable, or injure them.
7. Submit the Use of Force Statement (form 9.27), Hazard Report (form 5.38), and photographs (Polaroid, digital, or other) to a supervisor prior to going off-duty, unless otherwise directed by Lieutenant or above.
8. When an officer uses force and a Use of Force Statement (form 9.27) is required, an in person screening of the incident by a supervisor must occur prior to the release of the suspect and must be documented in the General Offense Report.
1. Upon notification of a use of force, determine if it is necessary to respond to the scene. Absent extenuating circumstances, supervisors shall respond to the scene of any use of force incident that involved three or more TASER applications and/or circumstances requiring an on-scene medical evaluation.
2. Review and approve all documentation and MRE reports submitted by the officer(s) prior to officer going off-duty. Verify the existence of the preface language required in XII (A) (2) above in all Use of Force Statements (form 9.27).
3. Upon approval of the General Offense Report in the MRE, the supervisor shall send a VMAIL to the HALERT handle providing them with the General Offense Number and a request to expedite the transcription of the report.
4. Supervisors will take a photograph of each suspect involved in a Use of Force reporting, including those juveniles arrested for gross misdemeanors or felonies. A photograph will be taken in each incident regardless of the presence or absence of visible injury. Supervisors will not take Use of Force photos on the same memory cards as the Evidence memory cards for the GO report.
a. Supervisors will take frontal and rear photographs of the suspect. A minimum of four photographs will be taken.
(1) Minor wounds on the head and face tend to bleed a great deal. Officers will take a picture before and after any aid is given.
(2) The locations on the subject’s body where force was applied should be photographed to document injury or lack of injury. (e.g., baton or beanbag impact site, TASER probe impact or drive stun site.)
(3) If any disrobing is required, have an officer of the same sex as the suspect take the pictures if possible. If not, restrict the photographs to where no disrobing is required and thoroughly document the injuries in the Use of Force Supervisors Report (form 1.40b). Additional officer and subject information will be included on the Use of Force Officer Supplemental (form 1.40c), and the Use of Force Supplemental Subject Information (form 1.40d).
b. Supervisors will take photograph(s) of the suspect only by voluntary, non-coercive means.
c. When relevant, supervisors should photograph the scene where the force occurred.
5. These images should not be stored on any networked computer.
a. The memory card for these images will be submitted to the Photographic Services Unit in the Photographic Media Envelope (form 50). The Photographic Services Unit will provide the requesting employee with prints, a CD or both.
b. Supervisors will check the “Use of Force” box on the Photographic Media Envelope (form 50).
c. When the proof sheet is returned to the supervisor, it should be marked and initialed and then forwarded to the appropriate bureau chief to be included with the Use of Force packet.
6. Supervisors will not copy or retain any of the photos. Supervisors will place all original photos in the confidential Use of Force packet.
7. Supervisors will photograph and document any injury sustained by any officer, however minor. Complete the Investigating Supervisor’s Report of Employee Industrial Injury (form 2.22) if an officer is injured.
8. Complete the Use of Force Supervisors Report (form 1.40b) and required supplemental reports, for every use of force incident. The “Supervisor’s Summary of Incident” section of the form shall include the following:
a. A brief description of the incident and arrest.
b. A detailed description of the force used by the officer(s) and suspect(s). This will include physical aggression and resistance by the suspect(s) and any verbal statements and/or body language which are relevant. Use quotation marks when appropriate.
c. A detailed description of all incident related injuries sustained by the officer(s) or suspect(s). This will include all visible injuries, complaint of injuries or lack of injuries to the suspect(s).
(1) Include a SFD medic and/or hospital report and a brief summary of those documents. Include the names and phone numbers of medics, ambulance personnel and hospital staff who treated the suspect(s).
(2) Document whether or not the suspect’s injuries are consistent with the description of the incident and force used.
(3) If applicable, document the suspect’s decline of medical aid.
d. List all witnesses, to include other officers at scene and transport officers. Gather contact information for all non-sworn witnesses.
e. A detailed description of the actions of the investigating supervisor to include the following:
(1) In-person screening at the location of the incident, when practical.
(2) An interview of the suspect(s) to record the suspect’s description of the incident, observations of the suspect’s demeanor, injuries or lack thereof, and any statements.
(3) A review of the booking charges, General Offense Reports, Officer Statements and Use of Force Statements (form 9.27).
(4) Indicate if the force used by the officer(s) is within the Department’s Use of Force policy.
9. Prepare a Use of Force packet. Include the following:
a. The original Use of Force Statement (form 9.27)
b. The Use of Force Supervisors Report (form 1.40b), any supplemental reports if utilized, and the Use of Force Command Review (form 1.40e).
d. Copies of all related PAPER reports
10. Forward the completed packet through the involved officer’s chain of command.
11. For those incidents that are of a sensitive nature or where serious injury has occurred, immediately forward a copy of the Use of Force packet to the Captain using an Alert tag.
12. The Use of Force packet shall then be forwarded through the chain of command to the involved employee’s Bureau Chief.
A. The use of force during demonstrations shall be reported following the procedures of this section; however, the Chief of Police or his designee may direct alternative use of force reporting procedures consistent with legal and policy requirements.
B. Any alternative reporting procedures shall be clearly defined, and the Incident Commander shall ensure that all personnel conform to the reporting requirements.
XIV. Annual Analysis
A. The Office of the Deputy Chief of Operations shall conduct a documented annual analysis of all reported uses of force by the Seattle Police Department.