Seattle’s Use-of-Force Policy Withstands Officers’ Appeal

(CN) – The Ninth Circuit on Tuesday upheld Seattle’s new police use-of-force policy mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice, rejecting a Second Amendment challenge brought by a group of officers.

The three-judge appellate panel found the policy does not violate the officers’ right to self-defense and fits Seattle’s objective of protecting the public and police officers.

The Seattle Police Department was placed under a consent decree in 2012 after an 11-month investigation by the Justice Department found routine use of excessive force and civil rights violations. As part of the police department’s settlement with the Justice Department, it implemented new use-of-force policies that stress minimal reliance on physical force.

More than 100 officers sued to block the police reforms in 2014, saying the revised use-of-force policy unreasonably restricted them from defending themselves and violated their Second Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.

The new policy requires officers “shall only use objectively reasonable force, proportional to the threat or urgency of the situation, when necessary, to achieve a law-enforcement objective.”

U.S. Chief District Judge Marsha Pechman dismissed the suit in 2014, finding the policy did not burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment and dismissed the officers’ due process and equal protection claims.

The appellate panel applied intermediate scrutiny to the use-of-force policy and found it “does not impose a substantial burden on appellants’ right to use a firearm for the purpose of lawful self-defense,”  according to the opinion by U.S. District Judge William Hayes, sitting by designation from the Southern District of California.

Seattle reasonably assumed the policy would ensure the safety of the public and officers, the opinion says.

“Given the city of Seattle’s important interest in promoting the safety of the public and its police officers, we determine there is a reasonable fit between the UF [use-of-force] Policy and this significant goal. We conclude that the UF Policy survives intermediate scrutiny and is, therefore, constitutional under the Second Amendment. Because we find the UF Policy is constitutional, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of the Second Amendment claim,” Hayes wrote.

Circuit Judges N. Randy Smith and Carlos Bea rounded out the panel.


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