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Some concerned new SPD use of force guidelines could put cops in danger

A proposed use of force manual covers every possible police contact and scenario and gives guidelines on how Seattle's officers should respond. (AP Photo/File)

The Seattle Police use of force policy manual, as it’s written today, is five pages. The independent monitor appointed by the Department of Justice to oversee the department has introduced a manual that is 70 pages. It highlights all the do’s and don’ts he believes are necessary to help officers avoid using force in the future.

This proposed use of force manual covers every possible police contact and scenario and gives guidelines on how officers should respond.

The underlying message is that force should be a last resort, and that officers should work hard to deescalate situations before they spiral out of control.

Monitor Merrick Bobb put the guidelines together, and he presented them to the Seattle City Council on Wednesday.

“Call for deescalation,” he said. “Call for standing back. Call for calling out CIT (crisis intervention team). Call for there being and effort to not confront in a such a way as to trigger force prematurely.”

Some of the new policies officers must consider. They
can’t use force if a suspect only verbally assaults them. Force can’t be used to punish or retaliate. Warnings are required before force can be used.

Pulling a weapon and pointing it at a suspect is now considered a reportable use of force.

“It is specifically pointed, and the likelihood of it being used probably increases,” Bobb told the council.

But police guild president Rich O’Neill told Q13 he’s worried all of these guidelines will put officers at risk.

“Some officers, I hope not, but some officers may hesitate, and that is a concern of mine,” he said. “I don’t want to see an officer get hurt because they should have used force, and they didn’t.”

Bobb said officer safety is a top priority for him.

“Everything is predicated on the officer not exposing himself or herself to untoward danger or a live threat.”

One more interesting piece of this use of force policy is that officers are going to be required to understand why a suspect might not be complying with their orders before using force.

Do they have a medical condition? Do they have diminished capacity? Language barriers. Emotional issues. They all must be considered before taking action.

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