We would prefer to just be doing our jobs rather than having to also wage a legal battle for our rights. However, as well as being public servants, we are also fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. We have the right and the duty to go home at the end of each watch. Requiring us to take unnecessary risks that will inevitably prevent this is not only unreasonable, it is immoral.
On January 1, 2014, our department implemented a new Use of Force (UF) Policy at the demand of DOJ. This policy is the greatest threat to the City's public safety in our time. It unabashedly promotes the interests and rights of criminal suspects above those of law-abiding citizens and officers. In doing so, it requires officers to take unnecessary risks with our own lives and safety and yours. The Supreme Court has held this to be patently unreasonable.
Attorneys at the DOJ and their representatives in Seattle however, have decided that they know what is reasonable better than the Supreme Court and experienced, highly trained officers working the street every day. Instead of allowing officers to respond to immediate threats of harm with reasonable force, they want us to first go through a complicated, contradictory and confusing checklist of requirements, criteria and options, under circumstances that are by nature tense, uncertain, and rapidly unfolding - even in the face of deadly threats.
The Supreme Court has long acknowledged that self-defense is a natural individual right possessed by every citizen, regardless of profession, i.e. "the rules which determine what is self-defense are of universal application, and are not affected by the character [of a person's] employment." These are not rules the DOJ, City of Seattle, or any other governmental entity may simply re-write to suit their own political agendas.
Being a cop has never been more complicated, unpredictable, and dangerous. We work in a city, like many American cities, faced with increasing criminal violence and a failed mental health system, which tragically leaves many mentally ill people living on the street in appalling conditions without treatment or caring supervision. The availability of alcohol and drugs is greater than ever; and, as all Americans know to our horror and sorrow, there is ready access to guns, despite reasonable laws to prevent such access by the mentally ill and convicted felons. When the police are not allowed to do their jobs safely and effectively, violent crime inevitably rises and everyone suffers, especially the innocent.
We are on the front line everyday. We consider it a great honor to be given the public's trust in fulfilling this mission. However, we also ask for recognition of the realities and dangers we are called upon to face, as well as respect for the constitutional laws and standards giving us the authority to address these realities and dangers appropriately.
The DOJ and its representatives want to ignore these realities and dangers. They want to side-step the Constitution and legislate local policy in order to impose their own misguided assumptions and biases about the dangers police face and how suspects behave.
Thankfully, most courts understand that the police face untold and unpredictable dangers, that criminals are not looking to 'play fair', and that police encounters can go from friendly to deadly in a heartbeat. This is why the body of constitutional law governing reasonable police conduct is well-developed and based upon real experience and common sense expectations.
We reached out to help fix this policy before it became a serious threat to public safety. All of our efforts were rejected. "Saving face" and 'politics' are more important to the people involved in producing and implementing this policy than the real lives and safety of law-abiding citizens and police officers.
This lawsuit was a last resort. We brought it not because we oppose police reform or transparency, but because we have a deep respect for the law and serious concern for our own safety and that of the public. So far we are the only group in Seattle demonstrating a truly transparent and impartial dedication to constitutional police reform. Constitutional policing cannot be implemented by violating the rights of the very people sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution.
Whether you are a concerned citizen or a fellow police officer, we need your help with spreading the word, as well as with legal fees and expenses. Thank you for whatever help you can provide.
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