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Seattle, Department Of Justice Get Closer To Consent Decree

Amy Radil

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and officials with the US Justice Department (DOJ) aren't saying anything, but sources say the two are making progress on a framework for police reform. DOJ says a consent decree is needed to address the police department's excessive use of force. One question is whether the decree will focus on biased policing as well.


When the Justice Department unveiled its findings on the Seattle Police Department (SPD) last December, it found a "pattern or practice" of excessive use of force. It said officers were too quick to use weapons and violated the rights of people they stopped.

The DOJ also looked at whether SPD officers discriminated against racial minorities, but its conclusions were a little less clear; DOJ stopped short of findings in that area. But it cited concerns that SPD's practices were having a disparate impact on minorities. It also said that SPD doesn't gather data that could help clarify the situation.

Now as negotiators attempt to hammer out a court–enforceable framework for police reform, one major question is whether biased policing will be part of it. The groups pressing for police reform say it's a priority. Chris Stearns of the Seattle Human Rights Commission says he expects the consent decree to include rigorous terms dealing with discriminatory policing.

SPD has recognized the problem. The department announced several initiatives to gather more data and address biased policing in its reform plan, announced earlier this year.

DOJ has threatened to sue Seattle if a consent decree can't be reached. City officials have said DOJ set a July 31 deadline to reach an agreement.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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