Use of force and crowd control policies

Black Lives Matter protesters in Seattle

CPC recommendations

The Community Police Commission (CPC) has issued 15 recommendations to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in response to their proposed use of force and crowd control policy changes. These recommendations are a result of hundreds of community comments gathered by the CPC.

Incorporating the wisdom from the community, these recommendations build on work the CPC has been doing for years - including recommendations made from 2016-2020 to ban the use of blast balls and other indiscriminate crowd control weapons like tear gas. These recommendations go further, working to better protect community members by calling on SPD to, among other things:

  • Explicitly protect the sanctity of human life as the primary guideline of how and when force is used.
  • Partner with community to redefine when using force is acceptable.
  • Stop using dogs as weapons.
  • Propose non-violent approaches and strategies in response to protests.
  • Create clear, high, and strong standards for when police can disperse protests.
  • Establish protections for medics during protests.
  • Stop using weapons that have not been reviewed or are outside of policy.
  • Prohibit the use of all head and neck controls; and
  • No longer allow threats of force (like sparking a Taser) to be considered "de-escalation" tactics.

You can view all 15 recommendations here.

We have also called on SPD to publicly disclose how they have incorporated these recommendations and community feedback within 60 days. SPD's actions have severely eroded community trust. It is incredibly important that SPD, the Department of Justice, and the Seattle Police Monitor take these recommendations as a road map toward rebuilding that trust.This is not the end of the conversation. Over the coming months we will continue to collect community input and look for areas we can make our recommendations even stronger.

Background

In late 2020, SPD proposed large-scale changes to its use of force and crowd control policies. That proposal would change eight sections of SPD's policy manual, covering more than 100 pages of policy in areas critical to holding police accountable. 

In brief, SPD's proposed policy changes would allow the department to: largely continue to use force as they have been, reverse Seattle's crowd control weapons ban, enable SPD to use new chemical crowd control weapons, make changes to SPD policies concerning the use of police dogs, implement some new standards for how SPD polices protests, and continue to avoid publicly justifying police reasoning for breaking up First Amendment demonstrations. 

SPD set a deadline of January 31 to receive input from the community. To try and amplify the community's voice, the CPC created a web platform for people to submit public comment and hosted a town hall event to discuss the changes. That community feedback is what drove our 15 recommendations. 

CPC Town Hall

The CPC partnered with Converge Media to live stream a town hall event to educate the community about the proposed policy changes and get their feedback.

The event was facilitated by CPC commissioners Alina Santillan and Joseph Seia. Panelists included Nikkita Oliver, Travonna Thompson-Wiley (Black Action Coalition), Le'Jayah Washington (Colorful Communities) Braxton Baker (Seattle Group for Police Accountability), Assistant Chief Lesley Cordner (SPD), Assistant Chief Thomas Mahaffey, and Becca Boatright (SPD). 

Community comments received

The CPC received incredible input from community on these policies. We got more than 150 comments on the proposed policy changes through our web platform and email. We also received hundreds of comments via social media during our town hall event. 

If you submitted public comment, thank you. Your work is invaluable, and we will continue to work to amplify your voice in the police accountability process. We will work to keep this web page updated with the latest news on this issue. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions at OCPC@seattle.gov