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August 21, 2014 at 2:45 PM

City, federal monitor move to dismiss suit by SPD officers

Attorneys for the city of Seattle asked a federal judge Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit in which more than 100 Seattle police officers are seeking to block new use-of-force policies stemming from federally mandated reforms.

Shortly after, attorneys for  the federal monitor overseeing the reforms also filed a motion to dismiss, calling the officers’ claims “legally untenable.”

City attorneys, in a 22-page motion filed in U.S. District Court, said the officers’ claim that their constitutional rights are being violated is undermined by two major misperceptions.

Officers have no constitutional right to the use of force and no Second Amendment right to use firearms “in any particular way,” the attorneys wrote in court papers submitted to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman.

In addition, the officers “incorrectly assume that the constitutional thresholds for permissible use of force by an officer must also apply to internal police policies,” the attorneys wrote.

“But policy and constitutional standards are not one and the same, and nothing prohibits a police department from implementing a use of force policy that employs a standard more restrictive than that permitted under the Constitution,” their motion added.

Those who filed the suit also have not shown they are likely to suffer irreparable harm, the attorneys wrote.

The officers’ suit, filed May 28 on their own behalf without an attorney, asked Pechman to block what they called “mechanical” and unrealistic policies imposed on them under a July 2012 consent decree between the city and the U.S. Justice Department.

The consent decree required the city to adopt reforms to curb excessive force and biased policing cited in a 2011 Justice Department report.

New use-of-force policies were adopted Jan. 1 and training has begun.

City attorneys noted that U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who is overseeing the consent decree, has found the policies to be constitutional.

The suit was filed without the approval or support of the officers’ union, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.

In their motion, city attorneys said much of suit is filled with “speculation and opinion about the value and effect” of the policies.

The suit included the federal monitor, Merrick Bobb, and members of his monitoring team as defendants.

In a 17-page motion, their attorneys wrote that the officers’ attempt to “undo” Robart’s approval of the polices lacks merit.

Regardless, the claims are barred because Bobb and the others have “absolute quasi-judicial immunity” as Robart’s court-appointed representatives  to oversee implementation of the reforms, the attorneys wrote.

Mayor Ed Murray, who is named as a defendant in the suit, has pledged to push forward with reforms.

But the suit has proved to be a public-relation headache for the city, creating a perception of significant resistance to the reforms in the ranks.

In a court hearing Tuesday on the progress of the reforms, Robart referred to the suit, saying, “To those individuals I simply say: ‘Get over it. The train has left the station. It’s not going to turn around. The good old days are not coming back.’ ”

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Seattle Police Department, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. District Court

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