A Department of Justice investigation of the Seattle Police Department has found that police officers frequently violated constitutional rights during use of force incidents, PubliCola learned this evening.[pullquote]The DOJ found that over a two year period, officers committed civil rights violations in one out of every five of the 500 to 600 incidents a year where officers used force.[/pullquote]
During its 11 month review of police department tactics and policies—brought on by a series of high profile misconduct cases including the August 2010 fatal police shooting of John T. Williams—the DOJ found that over a two year period, officers committed civil rights violations in one out of every five of the 500 to 600 incidents a year where officers used force. Those incidents included officers use of pepper spray, Tasers, or when they went “hands on” during arrests, according to two sources with knowledge of the DOJ investigation
As a result of the investigation—which consisted of interviews with officers, scrutinizing department policies, and reviews of video captured by in-car cameras—the DOJ has also requested that the city embed a member of the Justice Department within SPD for several years.
In fact, the DOJ’s review doesn’t appear to contain much good news for the department, with the exception of the fact that the feds acknowledge SPD gave them “unprecedented access” during their investigation.
Police officials are fuming, according to sources, over the fact that the DOJ has refused to provide police with data on how they came up with their results. The DOJ has also refused to provide data to back up their findings, unless the city enters into legal arbitration with the justice department.
The DOJ is effectively trying to force the department into a “consent decree,” which would mandate a series of drastic internal changes in the department under threat of legal action, sources told us Thursday night. The DOJ has previously made consent decrees in New Orleans and the Los Angeles Police Department after the Rampart scandal.
The department now has to either accept the DOJ’s findings and admit problems within the department, or fight it in court. The city is already reviewing a possible legal response to the federal investigation, according to sources.
The department is expected to release a letter to officers informing them of the details of the investigation sometime before tomorrow’s 9:30 am press conference.
Photo via Flickr.