The Justice Department announced that it has opened a pattern or practice investigation into allegations of use of excessive force and discriminatory policing by members of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), pursuant to the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Justice Department will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by officers of the SPD. During the course of their investigation, the Justice Department will consider all relevant information, particularly the efforts that Seattle has undertaken to ensure compliance with federal law. The Justice Department has taken similar steps in a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies, both large and small, in jurisdictions such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and California.
This announcement is separate from any ongoing federal criminal investigation involving the Seattle Police Department.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez commented on the matter:
Based upon information gathered during our preliminary review, we believe a formal investigation is warranted to determine whether there has been a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law.
When conducting investigations such as this one, we aim to gather as much information as possible from as many sources as we can. We will examine department policies and practices, review records and observe police officers in the field. We will talk to department leadership and rank and file officers. We will also engage with the community – a critical part of the process of determining whether violations have occurred and how a police department can be improved.
Our goal with this investigation – as with all of our police pattern and practice investigations – is simple: to ensure that the community has an effective, accountable police department that controls crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting.