Seattle police: New DOJ use of-force policy ‘won't tie our hands' this May Day

by: Amy Clancy Updated:

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SEATTLE —

We’ve seen how the Seattle Police Department has handled May Day violence in the past. 

However, this year will mark the first time the SPD’s approximately 1,300 officers have been tested by May Day protestors since the department’s new "use of force" policy went into effect Jan. 1, 2014. 

The new policy, mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice, dictates immediate documentation and investigation any time an excessive use of-force complaint is made against an officer. 

Sources inside the SPD have expressed concerns to KIRO 7 that any complaint of excessive force by protestors on Thursday would mean that officer would immediately have to leave the streets to fill out the mandatory paperwork, possibly putting the city at risk.

On Tuesday, Assistant Seattle Police Chief Paul McDonagh and Capt. Chris Fowler confirmed the new DOJ regulations will mean any complaints of excessive force will result in mandatory paperwork and investigations, but not until any danger to the citizens of Seattle has passed.

“We have to balance the needs of the community and what we’re doing, versus the reporting,” McDonagh told reporter Amy Clancy. “But the reporting itself will, in fact, occur.”

Fowler explained how a typical arrest works under the new DOJ guidelines: if an excessive force complaint is made, a supervisor is immediately called to interview witnesses and begin the investigation. 

The officer involved leaves the scene to write a report. 

But Fowler said, not on May Day, “In a demonstration or crowd-control situation, and potentially a riot, that’s just not tactically feasible.  We can’t have a multitude of officers leaving,” he said.  “So we have to figure out how to follow that policy within a tactically-evolving critical situation” like May Day.

Fowler said exactly how that will be accomplished is still being decided.

McDonagh also said that all of the department’s 1,300 officers are ready to be called in to work, if necessary.

Link to Use of Force Policy