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Federal monitor says Seattle Police use of force is down

Seatte police
KUOW / Ashley Ahearn
Seattle police officers

Seattle reached a major milestone in its police reform efforts Thursday.

A federal monitor has found the overall use of force in the Seattle Police Department is down.

The report, compiled after monitors studied two and a half years of data ending in October 2016, shows that SPD officers are using less force and less severe types of force.

This brings the department into initial compliance with the use of force requirements under the Department of Justice consent decree, a huge step towards full compliance.

The report also states SPD's improvements have not come at the expense of officer safety or crime levels.

Tim Burgess is a Seattle City Council member and a former police officer. He said this confirms what he's known for a long time.

"A city like Seattle, and other American cities, can have constitutional, effective, fair policing and not put our officers at risk, not create public safety problems in the city."

The report shows in the vast majority of cases, officer use of force appeared necessary, reasonable and in line with SPD policy.

Burgess said the next test is whether Seattle can keep moving forward without the DOJ looking over their shoulder.

He said police reform legislation moving through the council will help make that happen.

"It will institutionalize a lot of the review and the oversight that we've begun to develop over the last four years with the help of the Department of Justice."

Monitors did find that people of color are still over-represented in use of force cases.

But they say there was no difference in the severity of force used against minorities.

Their next assessment will look at progress on biased policing in the city.

Year started with KUOW: 2015