DOJ Police Reform in Seattle: Will It Address Failed Evidence?

Posted: July 30, 2012 in Police reform
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Widely-circulating reports over the last few days indicate that the U.S Department of Justice has settled another police reform case, this one with the Seattle Police Department.  Details are sketchy, with much of the coverage focusing on how the mayor resisted an earlier proposed settlement as too onerous and expensive.  That’s the thrust of today’s article in the Seattle Times on the settlement.

When we finally do see the agreement, it will interesting to see whether it requires changes to how basic types of evidence — eyewitness identification, suspect interrogation, and forensics — are handled.  In last week’s posts on the subject, here and here, I reported that the DOJ/New Orleans Police Department consent decree expressly addressed both photographic eyewitness identification, and the recording of suspect interrogations.  The main issues in Seattle was the use of force and how that might be reformed, tracked, and supervised, so this agreement may not address those concerns with evidence.    When I get a look at the settlement document, I’ll report here whether those issues are included.

Whether the Seattle agreement hits those issues or not, it is refreshing to see the Department of Justice take them on in the New Orleans case.  It will be important to watch whether that happens in other consent decrees in the future.

Update, 8/1: The documents now available on the Seattle settlement indicate that it did not touch upon issues involving eyewitness identification, interrogation, or forensics.  The focus was on the use of force.


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