Police Abuse

Seattle Cops Suing Over DOJ Use-of-Force Rules

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north precinct
Seattle P.D.

More than 100 cops in Seattle filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Department of Justice (DOJ), Attorney General Eric Holder, the local U.S. attorney, and Seattle's recently elected mayor, Ed Murray. They allege that new use-of-force rules, instituted after the DOJ found a pattern or practice of the excessive use of force, are unrealistic and paralyze officers in the street, causing a "bold, new disregard for police authority in the streets of Seattle."

As a consequence, the lawsuit alleges, cops are reluctant to do proactive police work and hesitant about responding to back up calls, worrying that they could fact disciplinary charges. The new use-of-force rules call for physical coercion to be a last resort for police and tell cops to use the minimum amount of force necessary to do their jobs. What cops do before using force, for example escalating or trying to de-escalate a situation, is also taken into account to judge whether the use of force was justified.

Given the admission in the lawsuit that cops aren't doing their jobs because they're not sure they can follow the rules, perhaps its unsurprising the Seattle police union did not endorse it. Most of the officers in the lawsuit are from the North precinct. When they tried to collect signatures elsewhere in the department, they were stopped by their commanders, and the Seattle Times reports:

Ron Smith, [police union] SPOG's president, said of the officers who filed suit, "I knew they were unhappy. I knew they were contemplating this action. I met with them to hear their concerns at their request, back in March. I didn't hear back from them again."

Smith said he gave the group "a conduit" to the Community Police Commission, created as part of the consent decree, and that they shared their concerns with the commission.

"I assumed they were going to get the policy changed in the areas of concern," Smith said. "I would like to say the policy is overly broad, poorly written and somewhat confusing. However, I believe the policy could have been changed with collaboration with the Community Police Commission."

The union doesn't necessarily back the rules imposed after the DOJ found widespread use-of-force abuse in the department, it just opposes getting them changed via lawsuit. It would be bad press. As the mayor pointed out, Seattle police have these mandated rules "in part because of a disturbing pattern of unnecessary use of force and other forms of unconstitutional policing."

The cops filing suit believe they have the Constitution on their side, because the Constitution, according to the lawsuit, "does not permit judges, or in this case DOJ and its Monitor, to look back in perfect hindsight, from the safety of their chambers or offices, to second-guess what patrol officers actually faced at the moment and know from real experience on the streets,"

The lawsuit's lead plaintiff, an Officer Robert Mahoney, was suspended without pay for 30 days in 2009 after being accused of forcibly kissing an 18-year-old cadet. He denied kissing her and was suspended for unprofessional conduct. The 30-day unpaid suspension was apparently the toughest disciplinary action the police chief could've taken short of termination. Mahoney was also found by the police chief to have been dishonest, which could have resulted in termination. Instead, a civil service commission threw out that charge even as it upheld the finding of unprofessional conduct. 

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  1. …causing a “bold, new disregard for police authority in the streets of Seattle.”

    People whittling in public with impunity.

    1. Or possibly a minority driving down the street during daytime hours.

    2. “bold, new disregard for police authority in the streets of Seattle.”

      Earning respect is just soooooo hard. So much more work than instilling fear.

  2. The cops filing suit believe they have the Constitution on their side, because the Constitution, according to the lawsuit, “does not permit judges, or in this case DOJ and its Monitor, to look back in perfect hindsight, from the safety of their chambers or offices, to second-guess what patrol officers actually faced at the moment and know from real experience on the streets,”

    So, you shouldn’t be second guessing the citizens’ use of force on the streets either? Such actions can quite readily be analyzed post hoc and should be scrutinized. We do it for all other crimes, are you mad because it might be applied to your crimes?

    1. There’s…there’s no way this can fly…right?

    2. You’re not implying there’s a double standard, are you? Perish the thought.

    3. Actually, the Constitution says nothing at all about protecting public officials, except giving them some due process rights in impeachment. Sure, they get rights as citizens, but nothing in the Constitution beyond that. In fact, if they read the document, they’ll find that much of what they do is clearly illegal, despite what the robe-wearing usurpers have said to the contrary.

      1. Since they are mere citizens, I was applying their logic to the rest of the polity. I know they’re full of shit constitutionally.

      2. If only the Constitution prevented the Judicial branch from exempting itself and the law-enforcement-prosecutorial executive functions from Constitutional scrutiny.

        1. It could become true if enough of us made it so.

  3. Can we sue the cops for having a bold disregard for the rights of the people?

    1. I’m just going to demand to be held to the same standard as cops if I ever get arrested again. (ie, allowed to go home and not face interrogation for 24 hours, only be subject to interrogations of reasonable duration that allow for personal breaks, requiring my attorney be present during all questioning, etc.)

      1. Paid vacation. You forgot the paid vacation.

        1. Oh, right. I need to continue to receive my salary while being investigated, even if I am prevented from working.

          1. Especially if you’re prevented from working.

            I wonder if a cop ever intentionally did something solely for the purpose of getting a paid suspension?

            1. *punches ProlD’ib in the face*

              You mean like THAT, civilian!

              *stares in roid-raged intensity*

            2. Doubtful. For most cops, work is life. It’s who they are. Being deprived of work, even while paid, is being denied their identity.
              For example my stepson’s father became a cop a few years ago. Since then he’s sold his guitars and other recreational stuff because he just doesn’t have time. He’s either working, sleeping, or watching COPS. Being deprived of work would being deprived of his identity. It’s the worst thing you can do to a cop.

              1. Yes, but a suspended cop is still a cop. And will be once the heat blows over, if any.

                1. Yes, but a suspended cop is still a cop.

                  Yeah, but they don’t get to strut around in uniform like a peacock, doing whatever they want, breaking the laws they enforce, issuing commands, and doing violence to anyone who fails to obey. That’s their life. It’s why they get out of bed. Take that away and you take away all their self worth.

              2. Being deprived of work would being deprived of his identity. It’s the worst thing you can do to a cop.

                It’s what made the end of The Shield so amazing. And so brutal for Vic. Of course, he deserved it and then some.

                1. Never seen it.

                  1. Never seen it.

                    You might want to watch it. It’s excellent, and while the Strike Team are the main characters and the “protagonists”, they are also painted as extremely corrupt, violent, and manipulative.

                    In the very first episode, Vic kills another cop who has joined the Strike Team as a plant for the station captain, and then frames a drug dealer for it. That’s the first fucking episode. And it just gets crazier from there. And they are not portrayed as good guys. At all.

                    1. In other words, he wasn’t into opera like he was when he was the Commissioner.

                    2. No, much more into hijacking and robbing Armenian mafia money trains.

                2. It’s what made the end of The Shield so amazing. And so brutal for Vic. Of course, he deserved it and then some.

                  How ’bout that Michael Jace?

              3. I mean, you could shoot him fatally on no provocation, taser him repeatedly while yelling “stop resisting!” until he’s permanently brain-damaged, or maybe lock him in a tiny room and leave him there with no food or water for three days. Those would probably be worse.

              4. He’s either working, sleeping, or watching masturbating furiously to COPS.

                FTFY.

              5. Nonsense, some cops have time to win surfing championships while banging Morgan Fairchild on the side.

  4. Look, the constitution clearly says police officers shall not be deprived of their right to deprive lesser citizens of life, liberty and property based on whatever sounds like a good idea at the time.

  5. Paralyzed Officers in the Street would be a great name for a punk band.

  6. MA-HONE-YYYYYY!!!!

    1. +1 Captain Harris

  7. The new use-of-force rules call for physical coercion to be a last resort for police and tell cops to use the minimum amount of force necessary to do their jobs. What cops do before using force, for example escalating or trying to de-escalate a situation, is also taken into account to judge whether the use of force was justified.

    Let me get this straight. They want to use physical coercion as the first resort, use maximum force possible, and not be judged at all. And they wonder why no one respects them.

    1. I treat them like I would any large stray dog I come upon, which is to be exceedingly polite while trying to end the interaction, in case they freak out and attack for reasons known only to them. In a way, I suppose, that is a form of respect.

      1. A form of justice would see him put down like such a dog.

  8. The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, an Officer Robert Mahoney, was suspended without pay for 30 days in 2009 after being accused of forcibly kissing an 18-year-old cadet. He denied kissing her and was suspended for unprofessional conduct. The 30-day unpaid suspension was apparently the toughest disciplinary action the police chief could’ve taken short of termination. Mahoney was also found by the police chief to have been dishonest, which could have resulted in termination. Instead, a civil service commission threw out that charge even as it upheld the finding of unprofessional conduct.

    Really? That’s the face they want to put on this lawsuit? The amount of gall is staggering.

    1. Mahoney…you can’t write that shit.

      Steve Guttenberg would be rolling over in his grave if he had one.

      1. Steve Guttenberg: Live or dead?

        1. Alive and still acting, though he hasn’t been in anything anyone has heard of since the 80s.
          http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000430/

          1. The Stonecutters need to step up their game.

        2. Incredibly, not only is Steve Guttenberg alive, but IMDb says he has two movies coming out this year.

      2. Well, Tackleberry resorted to physical force pretty much first and foremost. And he’s pretty much the only dead one.

  9. Just like the bigoratti to try to impose their views on the professionals. Given the totality of the circs, this will never stand on appeal, which I know cause my girl Morgan Fiarchild played a chick who knew a judge in a movie and case law is on their side.

    So when you civilians get over your jealousy of the Men and Women in Blue who protect you, and keep you, and make their light to shine upon you….well, hth.

    SMOOCHES.

  10. The new use-of-force rules call for physical coercion to be a last resort for police and tell cops to use the minimum amount of force necessary to do their jobs.

    Many years ago I was a jailor in a small town in bfe. This was always SOP for us, and we didn’t need the DOJ to tell us. Any of the deputies who didn’t follow those rules would be canned/ arrested. I saw people fired for a lot less. How can these assholes be taken seriously?

    1. How many years ago? Because things have changed.

      1. Almost 10, but I’ll say this. The fish rots from the head down. Everyone in the SO when I was there was expected to be courteous and proffessional at all times, or there would be consequences. I saw a new deputy threatened with termiation because he used coffee cream that belonged to the trustees without asking. Another deputy got demoted for using his patrol car for personal use 1 time. Now, being in a small department makes things easier to manage, so does the fact that the sheriff is elected. But I think these PDs could get their cops under control if they wanted to.

  11. hesitant about responding to back up calls

    Gee I wonder why?

    Maybe because they know that their fellow cops are scum bags.

  12. The whole thing is a clown car full of bad decisions when you unpack it. The Seattle PI has some more fun details.

    Officers say their Fourth Amendment rights to perform reasonable searches and seizures are violated under the new policies.

    What? You really think the 4th Amendment gives you a right to search people? Oh, wait:

    The police officers are representing themselves in this case.

    Well, that explains the, umm, novel legal theories displayed.

    1. The police officers are representing themselves in this case.

      We now have conclusive proof that they are fools!

  13. They allege that new use-of-force rules, instituted after the DOJ found a pattern or practice of the excessive use of force, are unrealistic and paralyze officers in the street, causing a “bold, new disregard for police authority in the streets of Seattle.”

    Which is, of course, their real problem with this.

    I wonder if they’re aware of how this whole thing makes them sound like massive, weeping pussies.

    1. They can’t get respect without using violence.

    2. It certainly makes them sound like they have sand in their manginas.

      OTOH, the job of deciding on who gets the pink slips for a Reduction In Force just became a no-brainer.

    3. And tonight at the Roxy… The Weeping Pussies!..

  14. The link to the Seattle Times has a link to the actual complaint. It says that the federal rules ‘unreasonably restrict and burden Plaintiff’s right to use force reasonably required to protect themselves and others from apparent harm and danger, in violation of the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.’

    Wow.

    1. I think they may be confused about a few things there.

      1. It’s pretty incredible. Their Fourth Amendment argument runs like this: Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has allowed certain officer safety exceptions searches and seizures as reasonable, therefore the police’s ‘right’ to do these searches and seizures is protected under the Fourth.

      2. Look, it’s called ‘shooting the moon’.

        You ask for the million, you hope to walk away with $100,000.

  15. So which one of the signers is Dunphy?

    1. The one carrying a surfboard in one arm with the hot girfriend on the other

      1. He’s too alpha for that. She’ll be carrying it for him.

        1. No he just clubbed the surfer for resisting and arrested the woman for possession of nothing particularly heinous.

  16. After reading the complaint, they do have one singular allegation that, if true, could constitute a point: they say the use-of-force policy is “so long, complex and contradictory that Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission personnel have stated that they have no idea how to conduct training for it, and therefore will not.”

    In that case their beef is with the dipshits at the WSCJTC, but it still goes beyond “we wanna shoot people!” So congratulations, guys, you escaped a zero and scored one out of a possible nine hundred points.

  17. Seattle pigs haz a sad. Maybe they should move to a sunnier place.

  18. Is that Morgan Fairchild in the background?

  19. ‘because the Constitution, according to the lawsuit, “does not permit judges, or in this case DOJ and its Monitor, to look back in perfect hindsight, from the safety of their chambers or offices, to second-guess what patrol officers actually faced at the moment and know from real experience on the streets,”‘

    That’s what the judicial system does to *the peasants* all day, but cops aren’t peasants, they’re above the law. Law is for the peasants, not their rulers.

    They could have been more concise and just said “We are the Law.”

    1. chambers or offices, to second-guess what patrol officers actually faced at the moment and know from real experience on the streets,”‘

      Officer Ian Birk fired four bullets into the back of an unarmed closed-pocket knife carrying woodcarver from the safety of 40 feet away. Mean streets.

  20. And no hat tip. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  21. Seattle police union did not endorse it. Most of the officers in the lawsuit are from the North precinct.

    Ahh, the North Precinct. That’s some bad suburban juju up in there. Fo sho!

    1. “I never got to shoot my human!”

  22. Seems like the “rule” regarding use of force can be just as simple as is stated in this article:

    “Physical coercion shall be a last resort for police officers whom shall use the minimum amount of force necessary to do their jobs.”

    Nothing more, nothing less. We have WAY too many a) people in jail, b) instances innocent people/animals being killed by police, and c) instances of police using deadly force FAR too soon into a conflict.

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