Study questions DOJ's claim on SPD's use of excessive force

SEATTLE -- It's a discrepancy the Department of Justice doesn't want to talk about.

A Seattle University professor is questioning the DOJ's investigation into Seattle police officers' use of force, and his findings are gaining steam nationwide.

Seattle University professor Matt Hickman's study, first released in December, questions whether the city really had to spend millions to re-train Seattle police officers.

In 2011, the DOJ found the Seattle Police Department resorted to excessive force "nearly 20 percent of the time."

But Hickman, a forrmer statistician with the DOJ, says the feds didn't get it right.

"It just begged the question: 'Wait a minute, let's take a look at this. How did you come up with this?'" he said.

In hopes of answering that question, Hickman, over eight months, studied the same exact data the DOJ reviewed. And what he came up with was nowhere near the DOJ's figure of 20 percent.

"We found it closer to something like 3 and a half percent, and we believe it's even lower than that," he said. "The principal findings are the use of force in Seattle is an extremely rare event, and the use of excessive force is even more rare."

The scathing DOJ report forced SPD to re-train officers on use of force.

"A critical look at the the department is something we should institutionalize and regularize," said Seattle Police Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer.

But it has come at great cost to taxpayers. According to city records, in January alone, the city paid $488,000 to the DOJ, including $142,000 for a federal monitor.

Neither the city nor the DOJ wished to comment on Hickman's findings. But Christine Cole, a criminal justice expert at Harvard University did.

"I view the Department of Justice's methodology as more expansive and paying more attention to the context of the situation," she said, adding Hickman's study was not as thorough as the DOJ's.

But Hickman stands by his numbers and worries the DOJ's findings have cost taxpayers too much.

"I don't think it will lead to long-lasting or meaningful reform. I think it's naive to presume that it will," he said.

The DOJ says its study looks at Seattle police as a whole department, not just in excessive-force cases.

The department would not discuss Hickman's study, but did release statement that said, "We are all working together with the Seattle Police Department to implement lasting reforms."