City, DOJ file motions to terminate Seattle Police Department's consent decree

SEATTLE - The city of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice have filed a motion calling for an end to federal oversight of the Seattle Police Department.

Since 2012, the consent decree required that Seattle Police emphasize de-escalation tactics, establish new use-of-force policies and to have better oversight and community involvement. Paperwork was officially filed on Thursday.

"It was really wonderful to stand there with Mayor Durkan and file that report with the city attorney showing that we have met all of the requirements that we needed to. And to have the Department of Justice and all of our partners file an agreement on our behalf," said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

According to court filings, SPD has reduced the use of serious force by officers by 60 percent. The motion says the department has become a national leader in crisis response training and the low rate of using force during crisis. It also states that the department does not engage in "no suspicion" stop-and frisk tactics.

Back on January 10, 2018, the court found the the City was in full compliance with Phase 1 of the consent decree. Soon after a Phase II assessment plan came into effect and the city said they've been in full compliance with that phase for two years.

"We've come a long way from where we've started with the Federal Consent Decree," said Best. "We now have body-worn cameras. Our office of inspector general has full and unfettered access to all records. We have a review board the reviews our use of force, which is now down to less than 2 percent in any call."

And while some think the department has made great strides in reaching compliance, others believe there is still work to be done. Last year, federal Judge James Robart said the department was partially out of compliance with the decree because of issues regarding new accountability measures.

The judge specifically referenced Officer Adley Shepherd, who was caught on camera punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a police car in 2014.

For Andre Taylor, the founder of an organization that aims to reduce fatal police shootings against people of color, the data doesn't speak to what's happening on streets, he said.

"In our communities, we're still seeing things that have not changed. We're still seeing killings. We're still seeing abuses and things have not changed," said Taylor, founder of Not This Time. "Had they come and done something comprehensive within communities of color and presented that as well, that would've been something different. But they overlooked the population that has the most problems with the police. And now they're trying to sell to the community that everything is great."

The city, through the motion, also conveyed that they have implemented training on implicit bias and the effects of racial disparity and that they've overhauled staffing to where officers have a consistent, trained supervisor.

The motion will now be considered by Judge James Robart. The city intends to respond to the May 21, 2019 order relating to accountability, and discipline by August 1, 2020.

"We’re never going to give up on that we’re always dong better and doing more, but we have met this milestone and feel really good about it," said Best.