Seattle Police have a wide range of options short of lethal force
The use of lethal force in law enforcement is frankly, something most police would rather not do.
The fact is however, people suffering a mental health crisis, others who appear to be under the influence of drugs and obviously those posing a danger to themselves or others present situations that quite often only the police can handle.
But police use of force is often in national headlines when a suspect dies in police custody because guns are involved and other options are not possible.
In 2012 numerous groups requested the federal Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigate egregious excessive force, over-policing, and biased policing incidents in Seattle. That led to a consent decree with the Department of Justice regarding the policies surrounding use of force that lasted until 2018 when they were found to be in "full and effective" compliance.
Under a sustainment agreement the city provides quarterly reports through SPD's Audit, Policy and Research Section. The rules regarding use of force are very strict.
The question is obvious.
What other options do police have to restrain, de-escalate, or otherwise control the situation and bring it to a resolution?
Following a recent Public Safety Roundtable meeting in West Seattle, Police Chief Adrian Diaz said that, pending some negotiations, the next generation of two of these tools were coming online, likely in the next 60 days. One of these is the Bolawrap. It's a device that uses a compressed air charge to fire two hooks, joined by a kevlar cord, that wrap around a subject's legs or torso, effectively immobilizing them. It's been shown to be effective across the nation in multiple jurisdictions, and is even deployed here locally (though not yet used) by the Normandy Park Police Department.
According to Seatle Police Detective Judinna J. Gulpan Public Information Officer, SPD Public Affairs
"The BolaWrap is a program not currently active in the department. The launch of the new less lethal tool is under negotiations with SPOG and our Policy Unit with an unknown resolution time.
The department had trained officers in 2022 as part of the pilot program only and have not deployed with the new tool. Any further purchases of BolaWrap are dependent on the overall success of the pilot program if it ever gets fully implemented."
Additional Information can be found at: wrap.com/bolawrap
Also available for use by SPD officers are "foam" bullets. Detective Gulpan explained.
40-mm Less Lethal Launcher:
"The “foam” gear is the Defense Technology 40-mm Exact Impact Sponge Round, deployed from a 40-mm less lethal launcher:
“The eXact iMpact™ 40 mm Sponge Round is a point-of-aim, point-of-impact direct-fire round. This lightweight, high-speed projectile consisting of a plastic body and sponge nose that is spin stabilized via the incorporated rifling collar and the 40 mm launcher’s rifled barrel. The round utilizes smokeless powder as the propellant, and, therefore, have velocities that are extremely consistent. Used for Crowd Control, Patrol, and Tactical Applications.”
The department currently has about 45 units operational in the field, with another 50 units on order with a Fall 2023 arrival estimate.
- Only officers who have been trained with the Seattle Police Department are allowed to use the 40 mm Less Lethal Launcher.
- Officers may only use 40 mm LL Impact Munitions (LLIM) in a manner consistent with the Seattle Police Use of Force Policy and training provided by the Department.
Additional information can be found at: WWW.Defense-Technology.Com "
To learn more about the SPD Policy – Use of Force Tools: See this link.
Chief Diaz said the next generation of Taser is also due to be deployed.
The Taser 10 is different that older models:
- including a 1,000-lumen pulsing light, loud audible alerts and LASER painting to warn a subject to comply before having to deploy probes.
- A longer range of up to 45 feet, compared with only 25 feet previously,
- The ability to deploy up to 10 probes compared with four probes previously, which only provided one or two opportunities to be effective. The device also has a differing tone when a good connection is made, alerting the officer.
- Individually targeted probes enabling the user to create their own spread, compared with the previous need to deploy two probes simultaneously at a predefined angle. This drastically improves accuracy and effectiveness, expanding the scenarios in which it can be used.
Taser may be utilized in the following circumstances:
- When a subject causes an immediate threat of harm to any person.
- When public safety interests dictate that a subject needs to be taken into custody and the level of resistance presented by the subject is:
- (1) likely to cause injury to the officer or subject; and
- (2) if hands-on control tactics or other force options would be likely to cause greater injury to the subject than the use of TASER.
- When a TASER is used against a subject, either in probe or drive stun mode, it will be for one standard discharge cycle of five seconds or less and the officer using the TASER must reassess the situation. Only the minimum number of five second cycles necessary to place the subject in custody will be used.
The department currently has approximately 264 tasers deployed amongst patrol, CRG, SWAT, and other units. The AXON Taser X26’s lifespan is coming to an end and we’re looking at either the Taser 7 or Taser 10 models to replace the existing model used in late 2023.
Additional information can be found at: AXON.Com
The policy behind their use is to provide officers with other tools to assist them in taking physical control of an aggressive, resistive, or uncooperative subject. In addition, these less lethal tools provide greater de-escalation capabilities using time and distance; and minimize injuries to community members and officers.
The Intended Purpose of Less-Lethal Weapons
“Less-lethal weapons are used to interrupt a subject’s threatening behavior so that officers may take physical control of the subject with less risk of injury to the subject or officer than posed by greater force applications. Less-lethal weapons alone cannot be expected to render a subject harmless. Support officers will be prepared to take immediate action to exploit the brief opportunity created by the less-lethal weapon and take control of the subject if safe to do so.”
Beyond those tools the Seattle Police Department can also employ: