Seattle Police Monitor Reports and Website
Assessments of Community Perceptions
Community Perception Survey (October 2013)
Purpose Statement + Key Findings
This research was commissioned by the federal monitoring team to assess community perceptions of the Seattle police, gauge the prevalence of community interactions with the police, and understand the nature of those interactions. Of particular note, the monitoring team set out to measure how often Seattle residents say they are the victims of racial profiling, excessive force, and verbally abusive language.
The research was also intended to measure Seattleites’ perceptions of how often these type of events happen— whether people were personally victims of them or not—and how Seattleites perceive the police treat people in various racial, socioeconomic, and demographic groups.
Some of the key findings of the survey include:
• Overall, a majority of Seattleites approve of the job the police are doing. Sixty percent of residents believe the police are doing an excellent or good job, while 34% think they are doing a not so good or poor job. The majority of residents also believes the police do a good job of keeping people safe (74% agree / 20% disagree). This conceals sharply lower views among African-Americans and Latinos, however.
• Most residents don’t believe the police treat people of all races and groups equally. Only 35% of people agree that SPD treats people of all races equally. Specifically, few people think the department treats African-Americans (32%), Latinos (33%), and Native Americans (33%) the same as everybody else. This belief extends to other groups as well, as less than a majority of people believe the police treat young people (45%) or homeless people (25%) the same as everybody else.
• Forty-five percent of all Seattleites believe the police use excessive physical force very or somewhat often. Notably, the use of excessive force was the most common type of mistreatment people believed the SPD was committing, after racial profiling. These beliefs are much more prevalent among African-Americans (70%) and Latinos (62%) than among whites and Asian-Americans.
• Latinos’ and African-Americans’ experiences back up the public’s perception that SPD treats them worse than others. These two groups are more likely than whites or Asian- Americans to report negative interactions with the police including excessive force, racial discrimination, and verbal abuse. They are also less likely to report being treated respectfully by police and have their questions answered. And they are more likely to report being stopped in the first place by SPD. 2
• Stops and mistreatment among African-Americans and Latinos directly leads to their poor perceptions of SPD. Word of mouth is one of the most popular ways for communities to spread news about the police: among African-Americans, it is second only to TV, as 54% of African Americans say they get much of their information about the police through word of mouth. So, bad police interactions have a multiplier effect that flows through our data and through the community as people tell their family, friends, and neighbors about their experiences. This is why, for example, more than three times as many African-Americans say they know someone who has been a victim of excessive force (17%) than say they have been a victim themselves (5%). Multivariate regression analysis shows that peoples’ perceptions of police racial bias have a strong impact on their overall ratings of the police department, which helps explain why the SPD’s job rating is lower among AfricanAmericans (49% approve / 42% approve) and Latinos (54% positive / 39% negative) than whites (60% approve / 35% disapprove) and Asian-Americans (67% approve / 27% disapprove), who report much fewer and much more positive interactions with police.
• It will be hard for SPD to improve community relations with Latinos and AfricanAmericans if these levels of negative officer-citizen interactions persist. Prescriptions for SPD community-relations improvement were not the intent of our research. However, the high incidence of negative police interactions among Latinos and African Americans—combined with the way information spreads from family to friend to neighbor— means that the SPD must improve its officer-to-person interactions before it improves relations with these two communities. This racial dynamic must be addressed at the patrol officer level, not the public information officer level, given the way information disseminates among communities and the prevalence of problematic interactions among Latinos and African-Americans.
• Future research is needed to reassess the problem and delve deeper into it. One research priority is to conduct a follow-up survey in the coming years. We suggest doing so annually or biannually, to assess how these findings are changing over time. We also believe this further research should focus more heavily on the Latino and AfricanAmerican communities who experience a disproportionate number of negative interactions with police. This should be accomplished via oversampling those groups. This survey also should delve deeper into the difference between positive and negative interactions, to better get a sense of what makes an interaction go in a good or bad direction. In addition, we believe qualitative research can play an important role in assessing community-police interactions. We believe that individual interviews and/or focus groups among people who have had interactions with the police would be helpful in understanding why people feel the way they do about SPD. We would suggest focusing these on groups who report high levels of negative interactions with the police or are perceived to have such a problem. These would include African-Americans, Latinos, and homeless people. We would strongly recommend that these not just be conducted among people who have had negative experiences with the police. We think hearing about how officers properly handled these difficult situations is an important aspect of future research.
Overall Attitudes Towards Seattle Police.
A majority of Seattleites have positive opinions towards the way the police is doing its job (60% approve / 34% disapprove). These include 60% approval ratings among men and women and they include majority positive ratings among residents of all ages, from under 35 (61%) to 65 and older (64%). This includes 20% of people who strongly approve of the job SPD is doing and 14% who strongly disapprove. With that said, the SPD compares unfavorably to the Washington State Patrol. Almost three quarters of people think the WSP is doing a good job (74% approve / 9% disapprove). The fact that almost four times as many people disapprove of the Seattle PD’s job performance as the Washington State Patrol’s is a significant difference.
Views of the SPD vary significantly by race. While the SPD gets high marks among AsianAmericans (67% approve / 27% disapprove) and whites (60% approve / 35% disapprove), it receives lower marks among Latinos (54% approve / 39% disapprove) and lower still ratings among African-Americans (49% approve / 42% approve). This is not the case for the Washington State Patrol, who has a job rating between 72% and 75% among all four of these groups. Racial patterns are even deeper among people who have intense feelings about the SPD. Three times more Asian-Americans strongly approve of the SPD than strongly disapprove (32% strong approve / 10% strong disapprove) and whites on balance strongly approve as well (17% strong approve / 12% strong disapprove). This is flipped among Latinos (17% strong approve / 29% strong disapprove) and African-Americans (17% strong approve / 27% strong disapprove).
This is a consistent theme throughout the poll: on almost every measure, Latinos and AfricanAmericans have much more negative opinions and experiences concerning SPD than others. Regionally, the East Precinct is where the SPD gets the lowest ratings. In all of the other four precincts, the department’s approval is between 59% and 63%. In the East, it’s 49%.
Public Safety Ratings.
The police get high marks on keeping people safe: 74% of people agree the SPD keeps people safe. People also broadly agree they do a good job of “serving my neighborhood” (72% agree they do so) and “treating people respectfully” (72% of people say they do this very or somewhat often). Almost two thirds of people (63%) say they quickly solve crimes and arrest criminals very or somewhat often. On all of these dimensions, they have majority-positive numbers across police precincts, racial lines, age, and gender.
A majority (52%) of residents believes the SPD “treats people differently because of their race,” and 53% of people believe SPD engages in racial profiling very or somewhat often. AfricanAmericans (74%) and Latinos (62%) are more likely to say police do one of these often, and 48% of African-Americans think the police engage in one of these very often. The SPD also gets low marks for “treating all races equally”: only 35% of people agree that the department does so, while 48% disagree. There’s majority disagreement among whites (31% agree / 50% disagree), Latinos (29% agree / 57% disagree), and African-Americans (35% agree / 64% agree), and a narrow plurality of Asian-Americans agree that SPD treats all races equally (42% agree / 36% disagree). Again, Latinos and African-Americans’ opinions are the most 4 intensely negative. Almost half (45%) of African-Americans strongly disagree that SPD treats all races equally, and 34% of Latinos say the same. The department also receives low ratings on whether it serves all areas of Seattle equally (30% agree / 50% disagree). It is also noteworthy how much of an effect these racial-treatment perceptions have on people’s overall feelings about the SPD. In a multivariate regression analysis, where we analyze how people’s opinions about various aspects of the SPD affect their overall opinion on it, we found that whether they agree “the Seattle Police treats all races equally” was the most predictive statement on their opinion of the department. Put simply, the average Seattleite believes it is more important whether the police are treating people of all races equally than whether they are keeping people safe. (A full table of regressions can be found in Appendix B).
Who do Seattleites believe bear the brunt of police mistreatment? Below are groups from highest to lowest, by the percent that thinks the group gets treated “not as well” as others:
• Homeless people (25% the same / 59% not as well)
• African-Americans (32% the same / 54% not as well)
• Latinos (33% the same / 49% not as well)
• Native Americans (33% the same / 48% not as well)
• Young people (45% the same / 39% not as well
• Asian-Americans (56% the same / 24% not as well)
We were not able to gauge homeless peoples’ perceptions directly in this survey. However, of the other groups listed, African-Americans also have the biggest disparity between how they believe they are treated and how the rest of Seattle thinks they are treated. While 54% of Seattleites overall believe African-Americans are treated not as well as the rest of residents, more than three-quarters of African-Americans (76%) believe they aren’t treated as well as others. There is also a similar disparity among Latinos. While 49% of the city’s overall population thinks Latinos are not treated as well by police, 59% of Latinos believe the same. Perceived Harassment/Excessive Force Frequency Forty-five percent of Seattleites believe the police commit excessive force very or somewhat often. Outside of treating people differently because of their race/racially profiling, the use of excessive force was the next most common type of mistreatment people believed the SPD was committing. We can’t make direct comparisons to past Seattle surveys because of methodology changes, but this broadly comports with the findings of those polls.
Community Engagement Ratings
The SPD receives middling ratings on whether it takes the time to meet members of your community (40% agree / 42% disagree). SPD receives stronger ratings on meeting members of the community in the South Precinct (50%) and among Asian-Americans (52%), and it gets weaker ratings among Latinos (32%), African-Americans (35%), whites (35%), and West Precinct residents (30%).
Who is Getting Stopped by Police? Much of the city interacts with the police in an involuntary manner every year. Almost a quarter of people have done so in the past year (23%), and an additional 25% know a friend, family member, or neighbor who has. Combined, 39% of people have either had such an interaction themselves or know one of these people who have (some people fall in both categories). The majority of these stops are traffic-related—77% of people who have been in such a police interaction have had a traffic-related interaction, while only 29% have had a non-traffic related interaction (again, some people fall in both categories). Put another way, 18% of Seattle residents have been in a traffic-related interaction with police, while only 9% have been in a non-traffic interaction. These non-traffic stops are almost evenly split between being stopped by police while standing or walking inside one’s neighborhood (5%), being stopped by police while standing or walking outside one’s neighborhood (5%), and being questioned by the police at home when someone did not request them to do so (4%).
Traffic interactions vary heavily by race . More than a third of African-Americans have had this type of interaction personally in the last year (38%) compared to 23% of Latinos, 20% of AsianAmericans, and 13% of whites. . . . This rate also varies by gender due to differences among men and women of color. While white women and men have had the same rate of nontraffic police interactions in the last year (7%), African-American and Latino men (25%) interact with the police in this way at a higher rate than their female counterparts (14%). This is not true of traffic stops, where there are no significant gender disparities by race. Age is also a slight factor, as 18-34 year olds interact with police outside their cars slightly more (12%) than adults 35 and older (7%). This dynamic crosses racial lines. . . .
People in a non-traffic situation are more likely to say the police:
• Were verbally abusive (37% non-traffic / 15% traffic) • Used physical force other than handcuffing (19% non-traffic / 9% traffic)
• Threatened to use physical force other than handcuffing (26% non-traffic / 10% traffic) They also are less likely to say the police:
• Answered all their questions (48% non-traffic / 73% traffic) • Stopped them for a reasonable amount of time (50% non-traffic / 68% traffic)
• Explained the reason they were stopped (47% non-traffic / 75% traffic) • Treated them respectfully (54% non-traffic / 76% traffic) As mentioned before, traffic stops are more frequent than non-traffic stops, so the type of interaction that is most common is also more positive.
Latinos and African-Americans have had more negative experiences than whites when being stopped by police4 . This disparity is greater than the traffic vs. non-traffic disparity.
Overall, Latinos and African-Americans are almost evenly split on their overall opinions of how the officer handled the situation (44% approve / 42% disapprove), compared to whites who widely approve (77% approve / 22% disapprove). African-Americans and Latinos are more likely than whites to say that the police:
• Were verbally abusive (31% AA + Latino / 3% white)
• Used physical force other than handcuffing (26% AA + Latino / 5% white)
• Threatened to use physical force other than handcuffing (30% AA + Latino / 3% white)
Formal Complaint Filings Compared to Negative Interactions
Very few people filed a formal complaint, compared to those who experienced a negative interaction. Of the 34% people who disapprove of the way the police handled their situation, only 28% percent made a complaint to the department. Of the 21% who strongly disapprove, only 37% made a complaint to the department. So, measuring the rate of complaints is not an accurate measure of the rate of people having negative interactions with the police.
Effects of Racial Disparities in Treatment.
Racial disparities do not just affect one person’s opinion. This is especially true among African-Americans: a 54% majority of them say they hear a large amount of information about the police via word of mouth, higher than any other racial group’s word-of-mouth information transmission and higher than any source of police news for African- Americans besides TV.
While whites mostly approved of the way SPD treated someone they know who interacted with police (65% approve / 30% disapprove), Latinos and African-Americans broadly disapprove of how the police treated their friend/neighbor/family member (30% approve / 65% disapprove). African-Americans and Latinos are more likely than others to have heard that their friend/family member/neighbor experienced physical force, unreasonable length of detainment, and disrespectful treatment during incidents. This lines up with self-reporting of these experiences. When people believe SPD has treated them poorly, people’s friends, family, and neighbors have heard about it. A clear illustration of this: 4% of Seattleites report being treated differently because of their race, while 21% report personally knowing someone else who was treated differently because of their race. Only 1% of residents report being victims of excessive force, while 8% of residents say they know someone who was a victim of excessive force.
SEPTEMBER 2015 SURVEY
SEPTEMBER 2013 SURVEY
Purpose Statement + Key Findings
This is the second survey and it follows a similar survey conducted in August 2013 that asked many of the same questions to a similar audience. Of particular note, the monitoring team set out to measure how often Seattle residents say they are the victims of racial profiling, excessive force, and verbally abusive language. In this survey we set out to measure any changes in attitudes on these issues from the 2013 research we conducted. . . . in 2015 we slightly changed the sample design of the survey to interview more people in the communities who gave the Seattle PD lower marks on these areas. Specifically, that means we conducted an oversample of Latinos—in English and Spanish—and an oversample of African Americans. This allowed us to analyze these communities not just as a monolithic bloc, but to look for differences in perceptions among these groups by key demographics and experiences (age, gender, interactions with police, etc.). We weighted the full survey results to be representative of Seattle’s population Some of the key findings of the survey include:
- The Seattle Police Department’s overall ratings improved, with disapproval of the department down sharply.
People are more pleased with the job SPD is doing this year (64% approve / 25% disapprove) than they were in 2013 (60% approve / 34% disapprove). Especially encouraging is that Latinos have grown more positive towards SPD (as have whites). African Americans remain a little more skeptical of SPD (48% approve / 40% disapprove) than residents overall.
- Fewer people are reporting problems with SPD from their personal interactions.
People who are stopped by SPD are more likely to approve of the way that stop is handled (70% approve) than they were in 2013 (65%). In particular, African Americans and Latinos (55% approve 2015 / 44% approve 2013) and people who have been stopped for something besides a traffic issue (65% approve 2015 / 47% approve 2013) 2 have given SPD much better marks. Those same groups were the most likely to disapprove of SPD’s handling of their interaction in 2013.
- Very few people report personally being victims of excessive force from SPD in the last year. Less than 1% of people say they have been victims of excessive force in the past year. That includes 1% of African Americans and 1% of Latinos, who in 2013 reported much higher rates of experiencing excessive force (5% and 9% respectively).
- Four percent of Seattleites say they were victims of SPD racial profiling in the past year, identical to 2013.
This includes 10% of Asian Americans, 9% of African Americans, and 6% of Latinos who said they were treated differently because of their race—all within the margin of error of last year or down.
– Citizens nationwide have soured on police regarding race. In August 2014 Pew found that only 30% of Americans have “a great deal of confidence in police to treat whites and blacks equally”; lower than 2009 (33%) and 2007% (37%).
– The Washington Post/ABC found in December 2014 that 54% of Americans think “blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment to whites in the criminal justice system”, up from 50% in July 2013.
Seattle PD are swimming against the tide of national popular opinion in trying to improve community perceptions regarding racial profiling.
- At the same time, people still feel about the same that SPD is keeping them safe. There’s no evidence that people think Seattle PD is less able to do its core job at the same time that people are reporting more positive interactions with police.
- Public perception isn’t changing as quickly as people’s personal interactions.
Just as many people today say they believe SPD uses excessive force very or somewhat often (46%) as said the same in 2013 (45%).
The same goes for racial profiling: 55% of people say that police engage in it today very or somewhat often, compared with 53% who said so in 2013.
- Latinos’ and African Americans’ experiences still back up the public’s perception that SPD treats them worse than others.
African Americans’ and Latinos’ experiences have gotten better in the last two years, but they are still not the same as whites or Asian Americans. They are more likely than whites to disapprove of how police treat them, they are more likely than whites to say police used force in an interaction, and they are less likely than whites to say police engaged in a wide range of positive behaviors such as treated them respectfully and listened to them. And they are more likely than whites to report being stopped in the first place by SPD. Most Seattleites also think that SPD treats Latinos and African Americans worse than others in the city.
- Word of mouth is still a serious factor in negative opinions of SPD. Word of mouth is one of the most popular ways for communities to spread news about the police: among African Americans, it is second only to TV, as 49% of African Americans say they get much of their information about the police through word of mouth. We conclude based on the data that bad police interactions have a multiplier effect that flows through the community as people tell their family, friends, and neighbors about their experiences. The bad news still travels faster than the good when it comes to community-police interactions: people are much more likely to disapprove of how the police treated someone they know who interacted with the police (31% disapprove) than they are to disapprove of how they were treated (23% disapprove). We fully expect to see a “data lag” here due to fundamentals of word of mouth communication and of human psychology. It’s very likely that perceptions of police are a trailing indicator, and that there has to be a lot of years of good policing to negate perceptions in some communities. Given the positive trend in SPD approval overall and in the SPD’s treatment of people they stop, there’s reason to be hopeful that this process is beginning to occur.
- Seattle PD community engagement makes people like the department more.
These personal meetings and interactions such as neighborhood/block watch programs make a big difference. Thirty-nine percent of people have been to one of these type of meetings, and those people are more likely to give SPD a positive job rating (68% approve / 25% disapprove) than Seattleites overall. People who have participated in a neighborhood/block watch program (75% approve) or a living room conversation (75% approve) are especially supportive of the police.
Overall Attitudes Towards Seattle Police Opinions of police have substantially improved since 2013—the amount of people who disapprove of the police (25%) is significantly down from 2013 in particular (34%). Some of the notable groups who are more supportive of Seattle police this year include:
- Latinos: 65% approve / 23% disapprove 2015 compared to 54% approve / 39% disapprove 2013
- LGBT Seattleites: 72% app / 27% dis 2015, compared to 55% app / 44% dis 2013
- Asian Americans: 70% app / 17% dis 2015, 67% app / 27% dis 2013
- Whites: 66% app / 25% dis 2015 compared to 60% app / 35% dis 2013
Given that Washington State Patrol’s approval rating hasn’t changed (73% approve now / 74% 2013) nor have Seattle FD (90% approve now / 92% 2013) or Seattle schools (53% approve now / 52% 2013), it’s likely this change is about SPD more than a general positivity towards local and state institutions.
Chief Kathleen O’Toole is also popular with Seattleites (61% approve / 11% disapprove), and her job approval rating is similar among racial lines (63% with whites / 59% with African Americans / 53% with Latinos / 62% with Asian Americans).
The most notable group that has not warmed towards SPD statistically is African Americans. A small plurality approved of SPD in 2013 (49% approve / 42% disapprove), and that’s still true today (48% approve / 40% disapprove). However, outside of this group all movement is positive. African Americans are also the only group more likely to strongly disapprove of Seattle PD (27%) than they are to strongly approve (13%)—Latinos had a similar dynamic in 2013, but now they are more likely to strongly approve of SPD (29%) than strongly disapprove (11%).
Who is Getting Stopped by Police?
Much of the city interacts with the police in an involuntary manner every yea . Twenty nine percent of people did so in the past year (up from 23% in 2015), and 28% know a friend who has done so (these groups are not mutually exclusive). Combined, 42% of people have either had a personal interaction with police in the past year or know someone who has—that number is slightly up from 39% in 2013.
Just like in 2013, most of these stops were traffic related . Race is a significant factor in whether people are stopped or not (traffic or non-traffic), as it was in 2013. African Americans are far more likely to be stopped in their car (28% in the last year) than whites (13%), Asian Americans (19%), or Latinos (18%). That’s doubly telling since this question does not account for the time people spend in a car. The Census shows that Latinos and African Americans in Seattle are far less likely to own a car and far less likely to drive cars as often as whites, so the per-mile rate that African Americans and Latinos are stopped is likely even higher than these results suggest on their face.
The pattern persists for non-traffic interactions: African Americans have experienced far more of these per person in the last year (20%) than Whites (10%). Again Latinos (19%) and Asian Americans (14%) are stopped more than whites. Age is a factor as well: African Americans under 40 are most likely to experience these interactions (21%).
Experiences of Those Who Were Stopped. People had better experiences with police stops in 2015 than in 2013. They were more likely to approve of how they were treated during stops overall (traffic or non-traffic). Most importantly, many of those gains came among some of the groups who say they were treated the most problematically in the past. One of the key stories in the data in 2015 is how much better interactions between the police and African Americans/Latinos have gone, and how much better in general interactions with police have gone in non-traffic stops.
A sizable 13% of people had a non-traffic related interaction3 , and 25% of Seattleites either had this type of interaction themselves or know someone who has. We focus more on these non-traffic incidents for two reasons: 1) they are often the more serious category of interaction, such as being arrested or detained, and 2) in 2013 people who had a non-traffic interaction with SPD had much more negative experiences than those with traffic interactions.
We also focus on stops with African-Americans and Latinos . . . Simply, people are reporting much more equal treatment from police than in the past. There still are serious racial differences in how people are interacting with police. African Americans and Latinos report being treated better by police than they were in 2013, but by no means are they reporting the same satisfaction as whites with personal police interactions. . . .
When we dive deeper than just overall approve/disapprove ratings, we also see African Americans and Latinos more likely than whites to report specific problems with their interactions. They are more likely than whites to say police engaged in the following during their most serious interaction with the police in the past year:
- Use verbally abusive language (Latino 23 / African American 20 / White 7)
- Threatened to use physical force other than handcuffing (African American 22 / Latino 11 / White 12)
- Used physical force other than handcuffing (African American 18 / Latino 13 / White 8) And they are less likely than whites to report the police conducting the following positive items happen during their interaction:
- Treated them respectfully (White 79 / Latino 73 / African American 60) • Had a valid reason for stopping me (White 64 / Latino 52 / African American 43)
- Explained the reason you were stopped in a clear way (White 73 / Latino 65 / African American 61)
- Stopped them for a reasonable amount of time (White 74 / Latino 59 / African American 56)
- Answered all of their questions (White 74 / African American 60 / Latino 52) • Listened to what I had to say (White 75 / Latino 61 / African American 57)
- Kept them informed of what was going to happen next (White 66 / Latino 53 / African American 49) Trend from 2013
These numbers show the same trends as the overall interaction ratings: improvement across the board, with even more substantial improvements within the African American and Latino communities.
On many specific areas, Latinos and African Americans today had similar interactions as the overall population did in 2013. So we aren’t yet at parity, but there’s broad improvement going on both generally in overall police interactions and specifically in interactions among groups we identified as the biggest worries two years ago. . . .
Overall, specific negative and positive events within interactions happened at a similar rate in 2015 and 2013. However, we did see substantial movement among African Americans and Latinos in a positive direction. Those two groups were much less likely to report having forced used on them, and they were less likely to report being verbally threatened with force or verbally abused. They also were more likely to say their stops were reasonable, their stops were explained, and they were treated with respect. Public perception of police treatment Even though people have been having better interactions with police, it has not at this point filtered up to changes in broader public perception.
Most Seattleites (55%) believe that SPD engages in racial profiling very or somewhat often, statistically unchanged from 2013 (53%). The same is true on whether SPD treats people differently because of their race (54% 2015 / 52% 2013). These perceptions are still far more common among African Americans (71%) and Latinos (61%), but whites (53%) and Asian Americans (51%) also see this as a problem.
When we drill down deeper, most Seattleites still think that Latinos and African Americans are being mistreated by police. . . . We also see that African Americans think they are being treated worse than the public does—73% say they aren’t treated as well as other groups. That’s not 4 For subgroup analysis on this question we combined two split-sampled questions: “Seattle Police engage in racial profiling” (55% very/somewhat often) and “Seattle Police treat people differently because of their race” (54% very/somewhat often) 7 true among Asian Americans (17% think they are treated not as well). Latinos (53% not as well) also have similar perceptions of their treatment as non-Latinos do. Last year more Latinos thought they were mistreated (59%) than did the city overall. Similarly, people 18-24 years old (46% not as well) view their own treatment about as the public does.
Perceived Harassment/Excessive Force Frequency
Again, there haven’t been any big changes in here—perceptions of individual SPD bad actions have been relatively stagnant. Forty-six percent of Seattleites believe the police commit excessive force very or somewhat often, unchanged from 45% saying the same in 2013. African Americans are more likely to believe the police engages in many different bad behaviors today than the general public. . . .
There were some overall positive trends among Latinos on these measures, matched by some overall negative trends among Asian Americans. Note that this measured perceptions of excessive force, abusive language, and use of slurs towards everyone, not just towards one’s specific racial group.
Community Engagement Ratings. The SPD receives slightly improved ratings on whether it takes the time to meet members of your community (44% agree / 38% disagree) compared with 2013 (40% agree / 42% disagree). SPD receives strong marks from Asian Americans on this (55%) as they did in 2013, and they get high marks the West precinct (56%). They are weakest in the East (34%) and among Latinos under 35 (31%).
Formal Complaint Filings Low, Compared to Negative Interactions
Most people who had a bad interaction with police still aren’t filing complaints. In 2013, only 28% of people who had a bad interaction filed a complaint. That is 23% in 2015, statistically no different than 2013. Based on the data and information provided by respondents discussed below, we do not believe complaints are a valid measure of overall opinions relation to police community interactions. This year we dove deeper into why people aren’t filing complaints. We allowed people who had a bad experience and didn’t file a complaint to give more than one reason for not doing so. Many reasons fell into the category of cynicism or even fear that their complaint would produce no positive outcome:
- I didn’t think it would make any changes in the department (81%, top response) • I have heard about others filing a complaint and not having a good experience (40%)
- I was worried about being harassed by the police if I filed a complaint (24%) At the same time, many people weren’t dissatisfied enough to file a complaint, or their problems were resolved without the process:
- The incident was so minor it didn’t seem worth the trouble (51%)
- The police addressed my issues without me having to file a formal complaint (22%)
An additional group (46%) didn’t know the process for filing a formal complaint. So ignorance certainly play a role in the low ratio of complaints to actual bad interactions with police. Given that, there’s work to be done educating people on the complaint process and showing them positive results from that process. But one can’t take that 23% who filed a complaint and assume that for every complaint there are three people who had just as bad of a problem and didn’t file a complaint. Many who don’t file a complaint either had less serious problems or had those problems resolved outside the formal process.
Experiences of racial profiling + excessive force
Two things are true at the same time here that follow the thread of the rest of the survey: Many, many fewer people feel they are the victim of these two behaviors. Less than 1% of Seattleites report being a victim of excessive force in the past year, and even among groups who reported higher levels in 2013 there’s virtually nobody experiencing this. The same with racially different treatment: the amount of African-Americans and Latinos who report this has been cut in half.
People are still reporting that someone they know experienced one of these at high rates. We can’t answer why this number isn’t going down in tandem with personal experience. Perhaps people are conflating timelines, and they heard a story recently that actually happened long ago. Perhaps the stories are shifting to more distant and distant acquaintances, making the “magnifier effect” of each story larger as the actual population incidence goes down. And perhaps the increased national stories around police shootings have prompted people to tell their own stories more than in the past.
Regardless of the reason(s), it is clear that these stories are still echoing around the community in a way that is harmful to community perceptions of police. Because the data doesn’t say why this is happening, it also can’t point to potential solutions. This does, however, help explain why individual events are going way down yet community perception isn’t changing. It’s also worth noting the (small) uptick of Asian Americans feeling differently because of their race. This is a minor change and barely outside the margin of error, but if we conduct this survey again we think it’s important to make sure we’re monitoring that group for any changes. . . . .
Beginning in September 2015, the Monitor began conducting a series of assessments of SPD performance across time, officers, and cases. These intensive reviews gauge whether a host of SPD reforms involving use of force, stops and detentions, internal investigations, crisis intervention, training, supervision, and many other areas are being translated from paper into practice.
Every six months, the Monitor must issue public reports on the SPD’s implementation of the Consent Decree. The reports describe, in detail, the SPD’s progress, as well as outstanding challenges.
Each March, the Monitoring Team–in consultation with the Parties and the Court–must provide a plan for its monitoring activities for the upcoming year. It provides deadlines and milestones for major objectives, initiatives, and tasks, as well as standards and mechanisms by which the Monitor will assess the quality of SPD’s work and progress.
Approved Policies, Procedures, and Training
USE OF FORCE
The Court approved a revised Use of Force policy in December 2013. The basic Use of Force policy (entitled “8.100: Use of Force–Using Force”) set forth parameters that guide officers in the field. The Court simultaneously approved a number of other policies related to the internal reporting, review, and investigation of force incidents.
The Court approved updates to the use of force policies in July 2015. Those updates, made pursuant to the Consent Decree’s requirements that all implicated SPD policies be periodically reviewed, were based on real-world lessons learned and were made with input from the SPD, its officers, and the community.
The Court has also approved comprehensive officer training plans in both 2014 and 2015 to provide officers with in-classroom and scenario-based instruction on the force policies and strategies and tactics consistent with them.
STOPS AND DETENTIONS & BIAS-FREE POLICING
In January 2014, the Court approved policies relating to certain officer contacts with civilians and to bias-free policing. In mid-2014, SPD officers completed several computer-based training initiatives that introduced the policies. In September 2014, the Court approved an in-class, interactive training program on the policies, which officers. Officers received additional training in both stops and detentions and bias-free policing in 2015.
EARLY INTERVENTION SYSTEM (“EIS”)
The Early Intervention System (“EIS”) requires that SPD supervisors track a broad range of officer performance data and provides a basis for affirmative, non-disciplinary supervisor intervention to assist officers in performance and career development. It constitutes a critical new way for supervisors to do their jobs on a daily basis – proactively managing officer performance and development.
The Crisis Intervention Committee (“CIC”) is an interagency group composed of a cross-section of stakeholders, including mental health professionals, clinicians, community advocates, academics, non-SPD law enforcement, representatives of the judiciary, and SPD. The CIC develops the critical components of SPD’s strategy for engaging in individuals who are in behavioral crisis (e.g., experiencing mental health issues, substance abuse concerns, etc.). All officers received basic training in crisis intervention issues and techniques in 2014, and all are receiving follow-up training during 2015.