Beginning next year Seattle police officers will be required to carry at least one weapon such as pepper spray in addition to their service revolvers.
The change is part of a new use-of-force policy approved by US District Judge James Robart as part of a settlement agreement between the Justice Department and the city of Seattle.
A 2011 federal investigation found a pattern of excessive use of force by Seattle police.
US attorney Jenny Durkan said the new rules are a significant step forward. “They will change the way in which force is both reported and investigated. It will really change the culture of this department," Durkan said.
Durkan said the new policy places an emphasis on de-escalation, especially when dealing with people who may be mentally ill. It also means the most serious uses of force will be investigated by a special team.
“It’s not just about punishment, it’s about learning lessons on how to use the best tactics possible so that we have the best relationship between the community and police officers,” Durkan said.
Durkan said the new policy was negotiated between the Seattle Police Department and the court-appointed federal monitor with input from the Community Police Commission.
Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel said on Wednesday that there’s more work to be done to restore and maintain the public’s trust.
“We’re still working very hard on getting our bias policing policy delivered to the monitoring team. We also have the Terry stop policy,” Pugel said. “And that will discuss when officers are allowed to detain a person short of arrest. How long they can detain a person for. All of these policies are incredibly important.”
The new use of force policy also places an emphasis on de-escalation when dealing with people who may be mentally ill. The most serious uses of force would be investigated by a special team.