In a highly public rejection of federally mandated reforms, more than 100 Seattle police officers filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block what they called “mechanical” and unrealistic use-of-force policies imposed on them under a court-ordered consent decree, reports the Seattle Times. The suit alleges policies stemming from an agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice stoked a “bold, new disregard for police authority in the streets of Seattle,” putting officers and the public in unreasonable danger.
The suit contends the changes have effectively created “hesitation and paralysis” among officers, stripping them of their constitutional and legal right to make reasonable, split-second judgments in the line of duty. As a result, officers are afraid to do their job for fear of being second-guessed over burdensome, complicated and voluminous policies, the suit says. “Aside from evidence that officers are hesitating and/or failing to use appropriate and lawfully justified force to address threats safely and effectively, there is evidence of a dramatic decrease in proactive police work to investigate and stop crime,” the suit alleges in a reference to what some have called “depolicing.” The suit for the first time brought to the surface widespread hostility within the Police Department toward the new use-of-force policies, standing in marked contrast to top commanders and city officials who have repeatedly embraced reforms.