Seattle police reports ‘extraordinarily low’ use-of-force in 2017

Feb 7, 2018, 2:03 PM | Updated: 3:38 pm
Seattle police, use-of-force, gang violence...
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

The Seattle Police Department reports that the number of use-of-force incidents was  “extraordinarily low” in 2017.

That could depend on how you read the numbers.

RELATED: $150k to remove unused Seattle surveillance cameras

SPD’s 2017 use-of-force report provides data into how the department has used force — physically engaging suspects, officer-involved shootings, etc. It states that .21 percent of unique incidents resulted in force and .18 percent of officer dispatches ended up with force.

Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, officers responded to 891,740 calls, which breaks down to 398,459 “unique events.” A total of 16 incidents (which involved 18 people) used the most severe level of force — six were officer-involved shootings (with eight suspects and 17 officers). Three incidents were fatal.

There were five other incidents “associated with in-custody death that did not involve significant force.”

Three levels of force

Whether or not such incidents are down, up, or relatively the same depends on which level of force was used. To understand that, you have to know that SPD differentiates three types of force. For example, level 1 (lighter force) has gone up and down since 2014; level 2 has steadily declined in that same time.

Level 3 force is the most severe form and can result in bodily harm or death. Officer-involved shootings are counted as level 3. Level 2 may include using a K-9, a beanbag shotgun, or pepper spray. And type 1 is restraint, but not causing significant injury — this level can include drawing a gun on a person. They’re the most commonly-reported types of force.

Officer-involved shootings decreased three straight years in a row since 2014 (from 23). They were down to five in 2016, but in 2017 the numbers shot up to 18. Last year is notable for high profile incidents, such as the shooting of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother, or the death of a 53-year-old man in crisis that was caught on body cam video.

According to SPD’s most recent use-of-force report:

…over the time period examined here officers reported using force of any level at a rate of less than one fifth of one percent (0.18%) of all dispatches to nearly 400,000 unique events – and of these uses of force, the overwhelming majority (approximately 77%) involved no greater than the lowest level of reportable force (such as minor complaints of transient pain with no objective signs of injury, or the pointing of a firearm). Further, serious levels of force – force that causes or may be reasonably expected to cause substantial bodily injury – was used in only 16 (0.004%) of these nearly 400,000 events.

SPD says that the 2017 report shows fewer incidents of force by officers, but also states that data can be open to interpretation and confirmation bias.


One OIS involved three different subjects, all in one vehicle; because use of force is measured as an algorithm of unique incident/officer/subject, each different combination of factors is considered as a separate use of force. For that reason, the number 18 is higher than the number of officers using force who were dispatched across all incidents. (SPD)

Use-of-force demographics

Most of the subjects who police used force on in 2017 were male — 77 percent. But the report also details other data. Seattle police are most likely to use force on “disturbance” calls — calls that end up being for assaults and domestic violence. Police use level 1 force most on Mondays and Tuesdays, and level 2 force more often on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Level 3

  • 18 people involved in 16 incidents; 7 white males; 4 black males; 2 Native American males; 2 black females; 1 white female; 1 Native American female
  • 8 people from officer-involved shootings: 4 white males (one fatal); 1 black male; 1 white female; 1 black female (fatal); 1 unknown.

Level 2

  • 7 percent White
  • 6.15 percent Black
  • 5.89 not specified.

Level 1

  • 29.72 percent White
  • 23.45 percent Black
  • 16.22 percent not specified

Read the full use-of-force report here.

Local News

KIRO 7 News Staff

11-year-old injured in suspected road rage shooting on I-5 near Tacoma Mall

The shooting, which took place on northbound I-5 south of 38th Street near the Tacoma Mall, was reported at about 2:20 p.m.
1 day ago
Frank Sumrall

Lowland snow looming for Seattle region early next week

Washington is expecting anywhere from eight to 18 inches of snowfall in the passes from Saturday through Sunday night.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Nearly 2 dozen people forced out of Tacoma apartments after Thanksgiving fire

Smoke and flames were seen on the second- and third-floor decks of one building and flames had spread into the attic.
1 day ago
Chris Wesolowicz (Photo courtesy of Wesolowicz Family GoFundMe)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Details emerge about man shot and killed in Southcenter parking garage

Mary Wesolowicz told KIRO 7 her husband was selfless, always putting others first, and in his final act, he did everything he could to save her.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
Colleen West, KIRO 7 News

Federal Way gun owner charged after 8-year-old shoots 9-year-old brother in head

LeAnthony J. Todd, 18, was charged on Nov. 15 with first-degree community endangerment due to unsafe firearm storage.
1 day ago
plane crash...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Victims identified in Friday’s plane crash near Snohomish

Four people were killed last Friday after a small plane crashed into a field and caught fire near Snohomish.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Seattle police reports ‘extraordinarily low’ use-of-force in 2017