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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

November 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM

SPD officers to appeal dismissal of use-of-force suit

In court papers filed Friday, 89 Seattle police officers said they intend to appeal the dismissal of their federal lawsuit seeking to block new use-of-force polices.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman threw out the suit last month, ruling that the policies designed to address excessive force in the Seattle Police Department reasonably balance the need for change with the safety of officers.

Pechman rejected the officers’ claim that the policies represent an abuse of power that “shocks the conscience.” She found the policies, which call on officers to look for ways to de-escalate confrontations, are not, as the officers alleged, so inflexible and arbitrary that they shock the conscience — even if the policies slow or forestall the use of force with resisting subjects.

“It does not shock the conscience to see certain de-escalation procedures imposed on police officers in an effort by their Department to avoid a pattern or practice of excessive use of force,” Pechman wrote.

Her reference stemmed from a U.S. Justice Department finding in 2011 that Seattle officers too often resorted to unnecessary force, in what amounted to a pattern or practice. The finding led to a 2012 settlement between the city and Justice Department to adopt reforms.

“It would be at least surprising if allegations of such a pattern or practice did not lead to the adoption of stricter standards for use of force by officers,” Pechman concluded.

The policies, which went into effect Jan. 1, contain “a number of concessions” that allow officers to react to rapidly unfolding circumstances, make split-second decisions and exercise reasonable discretion, Pechman noted in granting the city’s motion to dismiss the suit.

The officers, who filed their suit in May, contend the policies put them and the public in danger. There were 100 officers who were part of the lawsuit, but 11 of them were not involved in Friday’s filing.

They will now take their case to a San Francisco-based federal appeals court, their attorney, Athan Tramountanas, said at a news conference Friday.

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: Seattle Police Department, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, use-of-force lawsuit

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