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Seattle police use of force remains low but glaring issues persist

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(The Center Square) – New data from the Seattle Office of Inspector General shows the Seattle Police Department’s overall use of force has decreased in the past three years, even as use of force against minorities continued to increase.

Between 2021 and 2023, the office recorded 3,686 occasions when the Seattle Police Department used force. 2021 had the lowest record of uses of force (1,116) since 2015, 2022 had the second lowest number (1,257) and 2023 had the third lowest (1,323) number.

During that same time period, use of force increased approximately 18.6%. However, the Office of Inspector General stated that the increase is “mostly due to the steady increase in count and percentage of incidents involving Type 1 force.”

Type 1 force, as described by the office, includes any use of force that causes transitory pain, or a complaint of pain is made. These cases also include pointing a firearm at a subject.

Type 2 force is described as force that causes greater pain, but less than substantial body harm. This includes the use of a taser or lacerations.

Lastly, type 3 includes the use of force that causes bodily harm, loss of consciousness, or death. Notably, 2023 had the lowest uses of force in officer involved shootings (2) since 2015.

Statistics also pointed out the disproportionate of use of force involving minorities.

Rates of injury or complaints of pain for white, Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander and bi-racial people decreased from 2021 to 2023, whereas the rates for black individuals increased by nearly 4%.

The counts of Type 1 and Type 2 subjects of force remained steady for white and Asian populations, whereas the counts of force against Black, Hispanic/Latino, and other minorities increased, according to the presentation.

“Black subjects are still the most likely to be subject to the pointing of a firearm, despite being the subject of force less frequently as white subjects,” Office of Inspector General Standards and Compliance Supervisor Christine Berbelis said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee.

Seattle Inspector General Lisa Judge said there are many things at play that have an impact on these statistics. Judge added that her office is looking to understand these factors in order to better handle on the appropriate fixes for disproportionate use of force rates.