SPD officers hire attorney in their suit over use of force
The move signals the 113 officers are determined to actively pursue their allegations that new use-of-force policies required under a federal consent decree put them and the public at risk.
Seattle Times staff reporter
After filing suit on their own to block new use-of-force policies, a group of Seattle police officers has retained an attorney to represent them.
The move signals the 113 officers are determined to actively pursue their case and contest recent motions to dismiss their suit.
Athan Tramountanas of the Seattle law firm Short Cressman & Burgess filed court papers Wednesday advising U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, who is overseeing the case, that he will be representing the officers as the matter moves forward.
The officers, who have represented themselves since filing suit May 28, allege the new policies, required under federally mandated reforms to curb excessive force, violate their constitutional right to self-defense and put them and the public in danger.
Tramountanas said Wednesday the officers retained him on Monday. He said he had met with a few of them to learn about the case.
“I believe police have rights to use reasonable force,” Tramountanas said, explaining what drew him to the case.
Describing himself as someone who grew up in Seattle and had worked downtown for 15 years, Tramountanas said he has become concerned about what he views as an increase in downtown crime.
He said he also took note of a Police Department report in May that showed steep drops in enforcement of lower-level crimes, which he attributed to the new policies and uncertainly among officers about what they are allowed to do.
Tramountanas, who declined to discuss whether he is being paid, specializes in construction litigation, contract law, real-estate law and complex commercial litigation in his 12-attorney firm.
The officers ratcheted up the stakes in the case last week, when they filed an amended complaint asserting that unnamed high-level city, police and union officials privately agree with their allegations.
The complaint accused the city, which entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012, of “playing politics” with their lives and those of citizens.
Tramountanas said one of his first tasks will be to respond to the motions to dismiss, including one brought by the city. A second motion was brought by the federal monitor tracking the reforms, who maintains claims against him and his team are barred.
The use-of-force policies, which went into effect Jan. 1, were approved by U.S. District Judge James Robart, who found them to be constitutional.
Tramountanas said the officers are not anti-reform, but want their concerns about safety to be heard.
Information in this article, originally published Sept. 3, 2014, was corrected Sept. 4, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Seattle attorney Athan Tramountanas was representing the 113 Seattle police officers suing to block new use-of-force of policies required under federally mandated reforms. He is representing only two of the officers.