Seattle Police Handle 10,000 Incidents Annually Involving Mentally Ill


The Seattle Police Department is on track to log 10,000 incident reports annually involving contacts with the mentally ill, reports the Seattle Times. Police are using force in a tiny fraction of the encounters. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), finding in 2011 that Seattle police too often resorted to excessive force, noted many of the victims were people with mental illness or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As part of a court-ordered consent decree between DOJ and the city, the police department began tracking use of force against the mentally ill or people in some type of crisis.

Officers fill out a three-page template any time they believe someone suspected of a crime or a disturbance is mentally ill or in a state of personal crisis. U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes called the data “very encouraging and demonstrates that the consent-decree driven organizational and operational changes around crisis intervention are taking root.” Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole commended officers for using relatively little force while investigating the cases. The department said only 10 of the incidents resulted in the use of “Type 2 force” — the level that “causes or is reasonably expected to cause physical injury greater than transitory pain but less than great or substantial bodily harm.”

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