Federally mandated changes in the Seattle Police Department led to a stunning drop in how often officers use serious force, with no rise in crime or officer injuries, according to a review released Thursday.
In hard-fought negotiations, the Justice Department pushed the city into a settlement in 2012 that overhauled police training, procedures and record-keeping, all aimed at reducing unnecessary uses of force, curbing biased policing and improving residents' trust.
The results have been unequivocal, according to the city, the DOJ and the monitor.
Officers reach for their Tasers and batons less frequently than they used to, and while minorities are more likely to be subject to force, they are not more likely to be subject to serious force than whites, the report said.
The numbers suggest that a police department whose officers formerly "would escalate even minor offenses ... has changed in fundamental ways," the monitor wrote.
Importantly, concerns that crime would rise or police would get hurt more often because of perceptions that officers would be reluctant to act proved unfounded, the monitor said.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the results from the collaboration with the Justice Department an example of what's possible when both a police chief and rank-and-file officers buy into reforms.
Polling conducted for the monitor says residents' attitudes toward police had improved. The percentage of those who said they approve of Seattle police has risen from 60 percent in 2013 to 72 percent in 2016. Much of that improvement is among black residents, with approval jumping from 49 percent to 62 percent.