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Originally published June 26, 2014 at 6:11 PM | Page modified June 26, 2014 at 7:45 PM

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SPD officers dispute claim of related use-of-force case

The officers, who are suing to block reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing, filed court papers in response to the city’s contention that there is a related case before another judge.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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A group of Seattle police officers suing to block new use-of-force policies filed court papers Thursday disputing the city’s contention that there is a related case before another judge.

City attorneys last week filed a notice with U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, who is handling the suit, informing her that U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is overseeing court-ordered reforms of the Seattle Police Department, had previously found the policies to be constitutional.

The attorneys did not request any specific action in what is generally considered a formality when related issues may arise in different cases.

In alerting Pechman to the prior finding, city attorneys gave Pechman an option to keep the case, transfer it to Robart or consult with him on what course to take.

Robart is overseeing the 2012 consent decree between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice, which requires the police department to adopt reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing. In a Dec. 17 written order, Robart approved the new use-of-force policies.

In its notice to Pechman, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office noted Robart concluded the policies “conform(ed) to the requirements of ... the United States Constitution, and judicial decisions interpreting the City’s constitutional obligations.”

More than 100 officers filed suit May 28 alleging the use-of-force policies, which went into effect Jan. 1, are overly restrictive, violate their civil rights and put them and the public in danger.

The officers, who are representing themselves in the case, brought the suit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and others.

The suit seeks an injunction to block implementation of the policies, a declaratory judgment that they are unconstitutional and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

In Thursday’s filing, 10 of the officers contended that the case before Robart is not a “pending action,” at least with regard to the use-of-force policies.

Nor is his decision related or determinative, the officers wrote, to their claims that the policies violate their constitutional rights.

Robart reached a “final decision” on the policies, the officers added, which continue to place their “lives and livelihoods at unnecessary and therefore unconstitutional risk each and every time we respond to a call.”

Their filing noted that the Community Police Commission (CPC), created as part of the reform effort, had tried to raise concerns about the policies without success.

In his Dec. 17 order, Robart noted that the CPC had suggested an alternative approach, asserting the policies were too long, and might increase confusion or create “trainability” issues.

But further noting the consent decree stemmed from federal concerns about ambiguity in the previous policies, Robart said “comprehensive, clear and specific policies are the most appropriate remedy for the present circumstances.”

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story. Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @stevemiletich



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