Federal court upholds Seattle's policy limiting police use of firearms

A federal appeals court has upheld the Seattle Police Department’s use-of-force policy that limits police use of firearms.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled on Tuesday in favor of the policy, which dictates officers can only use “objectively reasonable force, proportional to the threat or urgency of the situation.” The policy also mandates officers try to deescalate situations whenever safe to do so, the Associated Press reported.

The ruling struck down a lawsuit filed by a group of 125 Seattle Police officers, who argued the policy would place too tight a restriction on their Second Amendment rights to use their department-issued firearms for self-defense.

“The City of Seattle has a significant interest in regulating the use of department-issued firearms by its police officers,” Judge William Hayes said in the ruling. He added the policy reflects the city’s “important government interest in ensuring the safety of both the public and its police officers.”

The policy came as the result of the U.S. Department of Justice suing the city in 2011 for excessive use of force and biased policing. In 2012, the DOJ and the city settled the lawsuit by agreeing to a consent decree, which acted as the foundation for the reforms.

City attorney Pete Holmes praised the 9th Circuit’s ruling in a statement and noted the policy had led to a 60 percent decline in police use-of-force incidents.

“On behalf of the City, I welcome this confirmation that constitutional policing and officer safety go hand-in-hand,” Holmes said.

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