Report on officer-involved shootings says SPD culture must change

SEATTLE -- A recently-released report on officer involved shootings in Seattle recommends many of the same changes now set forth by federal investigators.

Rebecca Roe, a former senior deputy prosecutor for King County, authored the Citizen's Report.

Roe's 2010 report found that five of the six Seattle Police Department officer involved shootings were justified, but it also calls for additional training for officers dealing with confrontations.

"We're not saying 'don't do your job,'" Roe said. "We're saying, 'do your job right."

The report, which was recently turned over to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, says the culture within the police department has to change, specifically in how officers communicate with the public.

"You want officers to make social contact," Roe said. "You want them to stop and talk to people and be visible."

The report highlights areas where Roe believes officers need additional training on how to "disengage peacefully from situations where their authority has been legitimately challenged."

"If you approach somebody who is not doing anything wrong and you want to talk to them but they don't want to talk to you, they don't have to talk to you," Roe said.

She also claims the lack of understanding of the limits of an officer's authority can lead to tragic consequences.

"Those incidents that kind of question their authority by attitude or words or turning around and waking away, they have to accept that," Roe said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for police now is preventing minor incidents from escalating into major ones, and Roe said officers need better training and more emphasis on when to back down.

Roe, who has been a Citizen Observer with the Firearms Review Board since 2006, also recommends having two citizen observers. But the Seattle Police Officers Guild says it sees no need for additional civilian oversight of shootings.