Police Accountability

Appeals Court Upholds Seattle's Use-of-Force Policy in Cops' Lawsuit

More than 120 police officers argued the city's updated use-of-force policy violated Second Amendment rights.

By Hayat Norimine September 19, 2017

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A group of Seattle police officers in 2014 sued the city for its updated use-of-force policy and argued that it violated cops' Second Amendment rights. A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that it passes constitutional muster. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously upheld the district court's decision that the city's updated policy—created from the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree— doesn't violate the rights of officers to use firearms for self-defense. 

"The City of Seattle has a significant interest in regulating the use of department-issued firearms by its police officers," Judge William Hayes wrote in the decision. He said the policy fits the city's "important government interest in ensuring the safety of both the public and its police officers." 

The U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 sued the city on grounds of excessive force and biased policing. The DOJ and the city in 2012 settled by negotiating a consent decree, part of which led to the city's updated use-of-force policy. More than 120 officers named in the lawsuit argued it violated their Second Amendment rights to defend themselves, as well as due process and equal protection rights.

Judge William Hayes in the court decision said judges determined that officers could still use firearms on the job, and that the policy "did not impose a substantial burden on plaintiffs' right to use a firearm" for self-defense. They also ruled it was constitutional because of the city's interest in keeping both police and the public safe. 

City attorney Pete Holmes in a statement Tuesday credited the policy with a 60 percent decline in use-of-force incidents, according to the court-appointed monitor, and said it's been a "critical component in transforming" the city's policing. 

“On behalf of the city, I welcome this confirmation that constitutional policing and officer safety go hand-in-hand,” Holmes said in the statement. 

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