Last week a judge granted a 30-day extension to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to come up with a plan to come into compliance with a consent decree in police reforms. The city of Seattle had asked for the extension because it said it needed more time to interact with the Department of Justice, a federal monitor commission, and the community police commission to develop a strategy.
In May 2019, U.S. District Judge Robart had ruled that the SPD was partially out of compliance with the consent decree, which has been in place since 2012 and was meant to prevent unconstitutional policing. Judge Robart felt that the accountability of police officers needed to be addressed after a new contract with the police union allowed for officers to appeal disciplinary issues through an outside arbitrator.
The original 2012 consent decree had much tougher provisions in place for investigating and disciplining officers and was put into place after a Department of Justice investigation “found a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”
Judge Robart's ruling in May stemmed from a 2014 incident involving a Seattle police officer who punched a handcuffed woman in the back of his patrol car during an arrest. The officer was fired over the incident but later reinstated by an outside arbitrator. The city of Seattle has been fighting the officer's reinstatement ever since.
Excessive Force in Washington
While the woman in the patrol car was only punched, excessive force among officers has long been an issue in Washington for years. Investigations by several newspapers found that between 2005 and 2016, Washington police officers killed 263 people. Campaign Zero, a police reform advocacy group, ranks Washington number eight for the number of people killed by police. Why do the police in Washington have such a license to use excessive force?
RCW 9A.16.040 is the law in Washington concerning justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by an officer as long as their actions are “without malice.” The issue is defining “malice” and criminal reform advocates would prefer the term to be dropped and for officers to receive extensive training in learning how to de-escalate situations and crisis intervention. To address this, Washington voters passed Initiative 940, The Law Enforcement and Community Safety Act last November. Now police officers can be more easily prosecuted if deadly force is used in a situation.
Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
As a former prosecutor, Steve Karimi knows both sides of the law and now spends his time defending those in Washington accused of serious crimes. If you were arrested and believe police used excessive force during your arrest, there are ways to hold the officers accountable for their actions. Contact his office today for a consultation at 206-621-8777 or fill out an online form.