Seattle police reach reform agreement with US government

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2012 4:12 PM

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The Seattle Police Department reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department on Friday that will see the city avoid a federal civil rights lawsuit over complaints of excessive force by its police officers.

A Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that a consent decree had been negotiated for a plan to settle findings of systematic misconduct cited in a federal review of Seattle's police force late last year.

Officials from the Justice Department, the mayor's office and the city police department planned to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. local time to discuss an "agreement on Seattle Police Department reforms," the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle added in a brief statement.

Talks on a settlement had bogged down over the anticipated costs of implementing a Justice Department proposal, which a city memorandum estimated would run roughly $41 million for the first year alone.

The memorandum had described those expenses, including $18 million to develop and implement training programs and $11 million for new city positions, as "prohibitive."

Details of the final settlement, including its costs, were not immediately revealed.

The city had faced a July 31 deadline to reach agreement with the Justice Department or face a federal lawsuit accusing the police department of violating citizens' civil rights.

The settlement in Seattle follows voluntary police reform pacts in recent years with several other big cities, including Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Several other large municipal police forces remain under federal review.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder placed the New Orleans Police Department, accused of widespread abuses, under the scrutiny of a federal monitor for at least four years.

The Justice Department concluded in a report presented in December that Seattle officers displayed a pattern of using excessive force between 2009 and April 2011.

The investigation was launched in response to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union that was sparked by a series of high-profile cases in which Seattle police used force against minorities.

(Reporting by Laura L. Myers; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Paul Simao)