Mayor Durkan delivers remarks following Judge Robart’s ruling on the consent decree
On January 10, Federal Judge Robart ruled that the City of Seattle is now in “full and effective compliance” with the Court ordered consent decree. The consent decree required significant reforms to be enacted — new use of force policies and trainings that emphasize de-escalation, a new approach to how officers interact with people experiencing mental crisis, new supervision and oversight with community involvement. As a result, there has been a decrease in uses of force overall – including a 60 percent reduction of the most serious uses of force – and a significant decline in force used against people in crisis.
Joined with City Attorney Pete Holmes, the Seattle Police Department, Councilmember M. Lorena González, and members of the Community Police Commission,
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan delivered the following remarks:
"This is a very significant and good day for the city of Seattle, for the police department, and for the community.
Today, federal Judge Robart has found the City of Seattle and its police department in full and effective compliance of the consent decree entered in 2012.
It has been a long process, and I want to make very clear that the work needs to continue. And the judge made that clear as well.
We have now reached a point where we’re in full and effective compliance, but the next two years are going to be critical, so that we can show that the Seattle Police Department can continue to stay in compliance with the consent decree, will continue to improve itself and reform itself, and address those issues that the monitor in the court have called out for the Seattle Police Department.
But I want to go back a little bit in time so people understand exactly how significant this is and how we got here. I will then be turning over the podium to those who have been so critical in reaching this juncture.
It was when I was U.S. Attorney, a number of community organizations came to the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office, asking us to look at the Seattle Police Department and whether there was a pattern or practice of improper use of force. This was after there had been a series of events, almost all of them captured on video, that showed usually young men of color were being disproportionately treated the police department and that force was being used in ways that simply was not appropriate.
We then had the tragic slaying of John T. Williams, and we acted as a department. We did a year-long investigation working with community, working with the Police Department, working with police officers, guild and police management, to investigate what the facts were. And what we actually found was, indeed, there was a pattern and practice of the unconstitutional use of force, and the U.S. Attorney’s office moved forward on that.
We negotiated with the City for a number of months. We worked closely with the City Council at that time and community groups trying to get an agreement in place. It took a significant period of time, and we had to threaten to go to court before we finally reached agreement with the City of Seattle.
And it’s ironic that it was in summer of 2012 that I stood at this exact podium in this room as then- United States Attorney, to announce the consent decree agreement. And today I’m able to stand here as your Mayor to say that we have reached full and effective compliance. And I think that the results that the court has pointed out speak for themselves on how important this was. There was a two-year period where the monitor was looking at the new policies and procedures, and again I think it’s important for everyone in Seattle to understand, that Seattle now stands as a model because we have moved from a force that was command and control to one where de-escalation and minimization of force was in the policy, in the training, and now we know it was actually what’s happening in practice.
The monitor took two years and studied all of the uses of force in the Seattle Police Department to determine whether there was full and effective compliance. In that two-year period, as the court indicated, there were 760,000 incidents to which Seattle police officers were dispatched - 760,000 incidents in a two-year period. Really important: less than one percent ended up in any force at all being used: .5%. And of those, 80% of them were the lowest level of force, what’s called type 1, which means there may be transient pain but no serious injury. Importantly, we did not even keep track of when that type of force was used before there was a consent decree. That was one of the requirements of the consent decree. Only 39 incidences were using the most—more serious levels of force.
I want to make very clear than any incident that uses serious use of force is, by its nature, serious. And we know that particularly in some of the tragic incidents we have had in the city show that we can do better. Particularly the shooting death recently of Charleena Lyles. We know that we want to improve ourselves as a police department.
Before coming out here today, I reached out to a number of members of the community so that they would know personally, from me, their mayor, that just because we are in full and effective compliance does not mean that we are going to quit doing what we do: which is to improve. To make sure that every police officer knows their job and their role. But we have seen, much to what people said was the contrary, there was a lot of talk at the beginning that you could not have a constitutional policing, you could not have a police force that used de-escalation as its model without having crime rates going up. That’s simply not true. Every police officer in Seattle puts on their uniform, goes to work every day to do their job, and is committed to public safety. And our crime rates have not raised. So Seattle will stand as the model and the proof that you can have good policing, you can keep your crime rates low, and you can still have very strong policing.
So I want to make a couple other points: this was not just a change in the policing model itself and the de-escalation training. There was a holistic approach to this. And you will be hearing from Councilmember Gonzalez who’s been leading the charge on the Council and Pete Holmes as City Attorney, you know, this has been a holistic effort over a period of years and each of those people I’m sure will echoing what I’m saying, which is, we’re not done, and we know we’re not done.
The court has issued some very important things that it wants us to address in particular, but the court’s language itself is really important. It said that we made remarkable progress, and it acknowledged that this is because of the hard work of the police officers of the Seattle Police Department and their command staff. And so I want to thank Chief Best who is here, who was with us at the beginning. She was on the police force and I worked with her closely when I was U.S. Attorney during the investigation stage. And Chief O’Toole, who is no longer Chief - a lot of our work, as the court noted today, a lot of our progress is because of her hard work as well.
In closing, there’s a lot of people who I think have to be thanked here. I mentioned some of them, I think one of them is City Attorney Pete Holmes. He and I were on opposing sides, you could call it, but actually we worked very collaboratively together during the investigation and consent decree process in really forming that consent decree. I think there’s probably no other city in the country where the US Attorney has been the person signing the consent decree and then will be the mayor to make sure that it takes effect. It shows you, I finish a job! Our former Mayor and former Councilmember Tim Burgess, he was an unbelievable critical ally when he was on the City Council. We would not have gotten a consent decree but for the work of city councilmembers and particularly Tim Burgess and his leadership and then as on the council overseeing that process, and then as Mayor continuing to work through it and being part of the people moving to show that we are in full and effective compliance. It was Tim’s leadership that helped get us to this place.
The City Council as a whole has been instrumental, both in getting the consent decree and in all the reforms that have been made since then. Again, I really especially want to thank Councilmember Lorena González. We first worked together on a police oversight panel and then she went on to be council to the mayor to ensure that as the prior administration stood up its programs, they were done right, and then as moving to the council, she has been an unflagging person to make sure that not only are the police reforms put in place, but they also serve the needs of the community. Fé Lopez, who I think is here, behind me – she has been on the CPC – and all the CPC community members who are here, I want to thank them as well. It has been such a critical function and something that has set our police reform efforts apart from anyone else in the country. So thank you for your work and for all the CPC, Rev. Harriett Walden who’s here, Colleen Echohawk. I see other people in the audience.
I also want to take up a personal point of privilege. I would not have been able to do the work that I did as U.S. attorney without the work a very talented Assistant United States Attorney by the name of Mike Diaz, who happens to be in the back of the room. I want to thank him for that. We’re losing him, he’s soon to become Judge Diaz, in the State Court.
But I promise that the next Chief of Police of the City of Seattle will be someone who will make sure that we continue in this very important process of police reforms. We now have the ability to sit down with the Department of Justice, with the police department, with the council and others, to have the roadmap for the next two years. We will have that road map for the candidates who will be Chief of Police, and it will be critical that we hire someone who can be the leader that we need in this community, both internally to make sure that rank and file know what is expected of them, but are supported in the job that they have. And that the community knows that there will continue to be a champion for the community in the police department itself."