Seattle police say force policies unconstitutional

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Associated Press

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 8:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 28 at 8:33 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — Dozens of Seattle police officers have filed a federal civil rights complaint against city and federal officials, saying use-of-force polices are restricting their constitutional rights to protect themselves.

In 2012 Seattle officials agreed to an independent monitor and court oversight of the city's police department as part of a deal with the U.S. Justice Department following a report that found officers routinely used excessive force.

KIRO reports ( http://tinyurl.com/l2snxgo ) that the officers' complaint, filed Wednesday afternoon, says the use-of-force policies "unreasonably restrict and burden their right to protect themselves and others in violation of the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution"

Among those named in the lawsuit are Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, City Attorney Pete Holmes and the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation of the Seattle department in 2011 after the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver and other incidents involving force used against minority suspects. A Justice Department report later found officers were too quick to reach for weapons, such as flashlights and batons, even when arresting people for minor offenses.

The findings upset some of the department's top officials, but several have since left, and the department has been working to change under a settlement with federal authorities. It has adopted new policies on virtually everything officers do, including stops and detentions, using force, data collection and crisis intervention.

Last week Murray nominated Kathleen O'Toole, a one-time Boston police commissioner and former inspector general for Ireland's national police force, to be the city's next police chief.

If approved by the City Council, O'Toole would take over a department of about 1,300 officers.

In a statement late Wednesday, Murray said O'Toole's top priority would be meeting the requirements of the federal court order concerning the police department.

"The police department will comply with that court order. The City of Seattle will not fight the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not the 1960s," Murray said.

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