Seattle Police Sue to Stop New Limits on Force

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Seattle police officers are fighting back against new city rules on the use of force, claiming in a federal lawsuit that the policies are putting them and the public at risk.

The rules, put in place in January, were the result of a city settlement with the Justice Department over federal allegations that police used excessive force that violated citizens’ constitutional rights.

But the lawsuit, filed on behalf of 126 Seattle city police officers (PDF), says the settlement went too far and prevent them from using “reasonable and effective force” in dangerous situations. The lawsuit says the policies require officers “to take unnecessary risks” and “to under-react to threats of harm until we have no choice but to overreact.” The suit says the result is “that officers and citizens will get killed or seriously injured.”

The suit names U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Justice Department employees, along with the city of Seattle, the Police Department and city officials.

The department said it had no comment, NBC station KING5 reported.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who is named in the lawsuit, released a statement saying he had not reviewed the lawsuit and would not comment directly on it. But the statement went on to say:

“The Seattle Police Department is under a federally-mandated court order, in part because of a disturbing pattern of unnecessary use of force and other forms of unconstitutional policing. The police department will comply with that court order. The City of Seattle will not fight the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not the 1960s.”

The police department has been operating under an interim chief, and former Boston police commissioner Kathleen O’Toole has been nominated to take over the department.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the policy and any related training. The lawsuit also asks for compensatory damages for lost time and wages and improper disciplinary action.

— Gil Aegerter