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U.S.: Seattle police use excessive force

Dec. 16, 2011 at 7:21 PM

SEATTLE, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Excessive force by the Seattle Police Department could result in a federal lawsuit unless the problems are corrected, the Department of Justice said.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Police Chief John Diaz and members of the city's police command staff met Thursday night to hear the findings of a federal civil rights investigation in which the Justice Department told of widespread and routine use of excessive force and biased policing against minorities by Seattle's officers, The Seattle Times reported Friday.

The newspaper said the meeting was rancorous, with raised voices and accusations flying from Seattle officials upset at the report, but McGinn disputed that account.

Writing for the Justice Department, Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division found "inadequate systems of supervision and oversight have permitted systemic use of force violations to persist at the Seattle Police Department."

Among other findings, the report concluded that when Seattle Police Department officers use of force, "they do so in an unconstitutional manner nearly 20 percent of the time."

"SPD officers escalate situations, and use unnecessary or excessive force, when arresting individuals for minor offenses," the report found. "This trend is pronounced in encounters with persons with mental illnesses or those under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is problematic because SPD estimates that 70 percent of use of force encounters involve these populations."

Diaz has invited the Justice Department to participate in a rewrite of his department's procedures and policies, the Times said.

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