U.S. Department of JusticeVia Hand Delivery and First Class U.S. Mail
The Honorable Michael McGinnMayorCity of Seattle600 4th Avenue, 7th FloorSeattle, WA 98124-4749Re: Seattle Police Department Civil Rights Pattern or Practice InvestigationDear Mayor McGinn:This letter reports the findings of the United States Department of Justice Civil RightsDivision’s and United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington’s(collectively, “DOJ”) joint investigation of the Seattle Police Department (“SPD” or “theDepartment”). Our investigation is brought pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and LawEnforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141 (“Section 14141”), the Omnibus Crime Controland Safe Streets Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 3789d (“Safe Streets Act”), and Title VI of the CivilRights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (“Title VI”). These laws authorize DOJ to initiate a civillawsuit to remedy patterns or practices of conduct by law enforcement agencies that depriveindividuals of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the UnitedStates. As we stated in our notification letter of March 31, 2011, our investigation focused onwhether SPD engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing through (1) the use of excessive force; or (2) discriminatory policing.Before sending our letter, we met in February 2011 with you, dozens of communitystakeholders, City leaders, and SPD personnel and union members. While opinions differed onthe causes, scope, and depth of the challenges facing SPD, there was agreement on some over-arching principles. SPD’s success depends upon recruiting the right officers, and then providingthem with strong and consistent leadership, training, and oversight. The structural deficienciesthat we identify in this report are exacerbated by the growing number of less-experiencedofficers in SPD. At the outset of our investigation, approximately one-third of officers had threeyears or less experience, and another 350 officers were retirement-eligible (meaning even morenew hires and potentially half of the force with little experience). Proper leadership, training(including mentoring), and oversight are critical for molding this next generation of SPDofficers. Unfortunately, most interviewed – internally and externally to SPD – believed that oneor more of these critical elements is deficient. There was a clear consensus that both the sourceof and solution to SPD’s problems would turn on the issues of leadership, training, and oversight.These early insights were borne out by our investigation. The issues and deficiencies found inour investigation will only be remedied by sustained, consistent and engaged leadership, comingfrom the top and carried out through every level of leadership in SPD.