New ‘first-in-the-nation’ policy limits Seattle police from knowingly lying

Nov 2, 2023, 12:23 PM | Updated: 12:23 pm

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Seattle Police Department vehicle (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

The city is instituting a new policy limiting the Seattle Police Department’s ability to use ruses in their work, citing recent instances where the public’s trust was undermined by officers knowingly using untrue statements.

According to the new policy, police will not be able to use a statement an officer knows is not true over any mass media or in any way that will “shock the conscience.” The policy also requires officers to get permission before using any ruses, along with other use guidelines.

The Office of Inspector General for Public Safety and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold pushed for the policy change after incidents in 2018 and 2020, when a ruse may have contributed to a suicide and a ruse incited chaos during the George Floyd Protests.

More on Seattle Police: City officials ‘disgusted’ by SPD bodycam footage, says ‘fix the culture’

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the policy change Oct. 30, emphasizing that the public trust lost during the use of these ruses outweighs any benefits gained by officers.

“Effective public safety requires community buy-in, and this new policy is an important step to build understanding with the public, demonstrating that for SPD operations to be successful, they must be paired with a commitment to unbiased, constitutional policing,” Harrell said in a statement. “This innovative new policy will lead to better police work thanks to the voices of many, including the media who brought attention to this tactic, community members who called for guidelines to match our values, and Seattle accountability and police leaders who developed a plan to make that vision real.”

The main uses that the new guidelines have for ruses are to deescalate situations, to help calm people down, or to promote safety, and ruses are completely prohibited when investigating misdemeanor property crimes.

According to Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, the policy is the first of its kind in the U.S. and continues SPD’s “long tradition of public safety innovation rooted in accountability and a commitment to building public confidence.”

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New ‘first-in-the-nation’ policy limits Seattle police from knowingly lying