The long-awaited findings from a Department of Justice investigation into the Seattle Police Department's use-of-force practices were released today. And the results are anything but pretty.
The DOJ said its agents found that SPD "engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law."
In fact, in one out of every five times that SPD officers have used force in the last two years they've done so in violation of the law, the DOJ claims. And when it's batons or clubs in the officers' hands, the rate of force being deemed "excessive" climbs to more than 50 percent.
Some findings highlighted by the DOJ include:
--When SPD officers use force, they do so in an unconstitutional manner nearly 20 percent of the time;
--SPD officers too quickly resort to the use of impact weapons, such as batons and flashlights. When SPD officers use batons, 57 percent of the time it is either unnecessary or excessive;
--SPD officers escalate situations, and use unnecessary or excessive force, when arresting individuals for minor offenses. This trend is pronounced in encounters with persons with mental illnesses or those under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is problematic because SPD estimates that 70 percent of use of force encounters involve these populations.
The 11-month investigation that produced these findings started in the wake of several high-profile use-of-force incidents, including Ofc. Shandy Cobane's stomping the "Mexican piss" out of a prone suspect and Ofc. Ian Birk's shooting of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams.
The DOJ's report isn't just strongly-worded criticism either. It has teeth and will include a court-enforced agreement, mandating the department to make swift changes to how it does business and warning of a federal lawsuit if the changes aren't satisfactory.
Police officials are reportedly very upset about the findings and the fact that the DOJ won't share all the details on how it came up with the conclusions.
Mayor Mike McGinn and city officials will now work out whether they intend to comply with the DOJ's demands or fight them in court.