Police chief: Seattle Police maintained 'full and effective' compliance with consent decree

The Seattle Police Department has maintained compliance with federal reform guidelines for two years, a major milestone for the department, according to interim police chief Adrian Diaz.

For a decade, SPD has been under the thumb of a consent decree – federal oversight requiring the department to reform policing tactics. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice found officers frequently used excessive force, failed to deescalate interactions and failed to properly assist people in mental health crises, all without facing consequences.

Since then, the department has been required to reform their practices, and in 2018 were found to be in full compliance with the consent decree. This moved them to the second phase, where they had to sustain compliance for two years.

There were stumbles around 2020, including the police response to the George Floyd protests, police union contracts that walked back certain reforms, and the city’s decision to file a motion to dismiss the consent decree – then their move to drop the dismissal less than a year later.

According to a recent assessment from the Federal Court Monitor, SPD has maintained "full and effective compliance" under the consent decree.

Police Chief Adrian Diaz said it is the first department "in the new era of consent decrees" to reach this milestone.

"We thank the Monitor, the court, the Department of Justice, and the many in Seattle’s diverse communities who have challenged and supported us," said Diaz. "Yet while we celebrate this achievement and look forward to completing the remaining commitments outlined in the Monitoring Plan for this year, we also remain mindful that this is by no means an endpoint."

Diaz said as SPD moves into next stage of the consent decree, the department is focusing on officer wellness reforms and training programs.

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"For any organization, reform should be an ever-evolving process," said Diaz, "and just as the massive calls for change and accountability in policing in 2020 and the continuing impacts of the pandemic have informed our approach to crowd management, deployment, and staffing efficiency, we pledge our continuing commitment to ensure that a culture of ongoing review and reform remains cemented in the DNA of this department."