Seven Claims Made In Seattle Cops’ Lawsuit Over DOJ Reforms, Including "Mental Gymnastics"

On Wednesday, 123 Seattle police officers filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the use-of-force policies outlined in the court-ordered consent decree with the DOJ.

Arguing that the policies have been imposed with “reckless and deliberate indifference” to the rights of the police officers under the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, and that they were crafted without “appropriate consideration of an officer’s knowledge, training, experience, or the apparent danger of the circumstances confronting him or her,” the lawsuit - which Mayor Ed Murray said yesterday he had yet to review - highlights a rift between the rank and file and those trying to rein them in. The suit specifically names Pete Holmes, Merrick Bobb, Ed Murray, Eric Holder, and the City of Seattle as defendants.

But what, exactly, is the problem. We dug into the “Summary of Claims” and pulled out these eight items to help clarify the officers' position:

1. “[The defendants] have promulgated and imposed new use of force policies and practices in reckless and deliberate indifference to the protections afforded plaintiffs by the constitution.”

2. “The new policies unreasonably restrict and burden plaintiff’s rights to use force reasonably required, to protect themselves and others.”

3. “The new unnecessary force policies and practices require ... That plaintiffs use significantly less force than is being threatened against them by suspects. This includes, for example, prohibiting Plaintiffs from using reasonable and effective force tools or techniques against vaguely defined, newly protected classes of suspects unless deadly force is the only other option. This significantly increases the likelihood that such persons will get killed or seriously injured in encounters with the police - a terrible result and a violation of those suspects’ rights - as well as a clear violation of constitutional protections afforded Plaintiffs to reasonably protect themselves and others from threats of harm.”

4. “[The policies] work to undermine and destroy the long-standing totality-of-the-circumstances standard for making, analyzing, and reviewing officers’ reasonable use of force decisions by undermining, at each step, the integrity of officers’ judgments as a whole.”

5. “The court requires unnecessary force policies to be simple, practical, and useful to the officer doing his or her job. The new UF policy clearly is not. ... Throughout [it] requires plaintiff (sic) to engage in mental gymnastics wholly unreasonable in light of the dangerous and fast evolving circumstances we face every day.”

6. “The unnecessary force policies and practices require plaintiffs to under-react to threats of harm until we have no choice but to over-react.”

7. “[The policies] and procedures attempt to fundamentally alter long-standing principles and standards governing acceptable and lawful police conduct, thus significantly altering the terms and conditions of plaintiff’s employment, including potentially interfering with plaintiffs’ rights ... Without plaintiffs having had any meaningful opportunity to participate or be heard in the process.”

8. “Research shows, overwhelmingly, that police officers under-react and hesitate in the face of threats of violence, and are often killed or seriously injured as a result.”

Take it for what it’s worth. Lots of it sounds like hot air from what SPOG President Ron Smith describes as a small minority of the union’s membership. SPOG, as the Times reports, is not funding or supporting the lawsuit.

Ed Murray, despite admitting that he had yet to review the lawsuit, issued a statement saying that, “The police department will comply with that court order. The City of Seattle will not fight the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not the 1960s.”

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