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Originally published March 29, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Page modified March 29, 2012 at 9:58 PM

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Mayor's initiatives seem to address complaints of biased policing

Many of the 20 initiatives announced Thursday appear to respond to community complaints about biased policing and use of force after several high-profile incidents, including the fatal shooting of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Many of the proposed 20 initiatives for the Seattle Police Department appear to respond to community complaints about biased policing and use of force after several high-profile incidents, including the fatal shooting of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams; an officer's punch to the face of a teen girl in a jaywalking incident; and the use of pepper spray to subdue Occupy Seattle protesters.

Highlights of the initiatives announced Thursday include:

• Revising and narrowing department policy so that pepper spray is used only as a self-defense tool, or as a last resort when all other legal, effective force options have been exhausted

• Noting that individuals with mental-health or substance-abuse issues often bear the brunt of police uses of force when "low-level" situations such as jaywalking escalate, the department is proposing to develop protocols to respond to such encounters.

• Efforts to combat biased policing will include streamlining race data from traffic stops; collecting data about "pedestrian-violation encounters;" and working with city departments, academics and the University of Washington's Department of American Ethnic Studies to review police practices as they relate to biased policing and to recommend improvements.

• Develop updated, clear policies and provide annual training on the use of all lethal, less-lethal and nonlethal tools available to officers; and provide annual training for sergeants and patrol commanders on investigating and documenting officers' use of force.

• Collaborate with tribal officers and other community representatives to ensure police incorporate different components into its training. The department also wants to expand a program that sends new officers to emergency shelters, sobering centers and mental-health facilities to observe and interact with staff members and clients.

• Involve the public in discussions of training topics to ensure they're relevant to the community.

• Continue the Force Review Board (FRB), which was established in the wake of the Justice Department investigation to review use-of-force reports, identify any problems or patterns and recommend changes in training and tactics.

• Recruit well-educated and skilled communicators; people of color; and people who are knowledgeable about Seattle and its environs, and when practical, come from and represent the communities they serve.

• Conduct a pilot program by placing body cameras on some officers.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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