Federal Police Monitor submits Seattle Police Department’s training plan to court

Mayor Murray announced today that two major training programs developed by the Seattle Police Department, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, have been recommended by Federal Police Monitor Merrick Bobb and submitted to U.S. District Court Judge James Robart for approval.

If approved by the Court, all 1,300 sworn officers of the Seattle Police Department will undergo instruction on how best to respond to calls involving a person in a mental health crisis, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or other severe behavioral emergencies by the end of 2014. SPD Dispatchers will also be trained to recognize calls for assistance involving persons in crisis to provide guidance to responding officers. A select group of officers will receive further specialized training and take control of the scene involving an individual in crisis.

Murray said he is especially pleased with the crisis intervention training program. “Studies indicate as many as 70 percent of use-of-force incidents involve people in crisis,” he said. “This training will help officers take control of situations and diffuse them, which will reduce the need for force.”

City Attorney Pete Holmes praised the police department work on the training programs. “This is an extraordinary accomplishment and provides a clear path forward on training,” Holmes said.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said the training programs marks a significant milestone in reforming the Seattle Police Department.

“The police department appreciates the hundreds of hours of great thinking by many individuals who contributed to these training programs,” said Seattle Police Captain and West Precinct Commander Chris Fowler, who led the effort for the department on developing the CIT policies and training program.

The department developed the crisis intervention training program with the assistance of an all-volunteer committee of mental and behavioral experts, advocates, academics, outside law enforcement representatives and legal experts, along with officials from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and expert consultants from the DOJ and Monitoring Team.

“This is great accomplishment that builds on prior work and we look forward to the training getting underway,” said Graydon Andrus, Director of Clinical Programs for the Downtown Emergency Services Center. “We think people will notice a difference in the street – police officers will be better prepared and people in crisis will receive needed assistance,” said Michael Reading, Director of Crisis Services at the Crisis Clinic.

The crisis intervention training will be conducted in phases to ensure that all officers attend an initial 8-hour course as soon as possible.  In subsequent phases, all officers will receive additional training and some will receive specialized training.

The Court is also being asked to approve a street skills training program in which all 1,300 officers will receive instruction on use of force, including the core principles of the new use of force policies, decision-making, team tactics and de-escalation. Officers will also receive integrated instruction on legal, policy and ethical principles. They will be taught techniques to identify, assess and resolve calls in a legal, safe and efficient manner.

In filings with the Court, Bobb said both training programs rely on national best practices and represents a significant accomplishment for the department. The DOJ’s consultant, Robert Davis, the former chief of Police of San Jose and former president of the Major City Chief’s Conference, assisted SPD in developing the use of force training manual.