Seattle limits Seattle Police Department's use of "ruses"

Seattle's ban on police "ruses", described as the policy of allowing officers to use lies and deception in the course of their work, is a "first-in-the-nation" policy, reports L.B. Gilbert. It applies to anything said in media or in any way that will "shock the conscience."

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the policy change Oct. 30, emphasizing that the public trust lost during the use of these ruses outweighs any benefits gained by officers.

"Effective public safety requires community buy-in, and this new policy is an important step to build understanding with the public, demonstrating that for SPD operations to be successful, they must be paired with a commitment to unbiased, constitutional policing," Harrell said in a statement. "This innovative new policy will lead to better police work thanks to the voices of many, including the media who brought attention to this tactic, community members who called for guidelines to match our values, and Seattle accountability and police leaders who developed a plan to make that vision real."

Sorry to be a downer but this is the sort of thing that will conclusively show that cities have no practical or legal control over their police departments.

Update: a more comprehensive article about the local context and what, exactly, the policy means.

The new policy comes after criticism of the tactic's use during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. CHS reported here on the fallout from a Proud Boy ruse broadcast on SPD radio in the summer of 2020 when SPD commanders including an assistant chief shaped an "improper ruse" targeting demonstrators, the media, and the public with faked police officer radio reports describing a group of 20 to 30 armed right wing extremists roaming the streets of city and headed to Capitol Hill for a fight. Though many caught onto the ruse even as the phony broadcasts were underway, the strategy heightened tensions and further eroded trust with the police department. …

Under the new policy, the city and SPD say officers are permitted to use a ruse — "a statement an officer knows is not true" – in limited circumstances under existing law. The city's new policy, officials say, adds further guidelines and restricts the use of the ploys to "five scenarios." Those umbrella covers a wide set of circumstances — including "de-escalation," "to call or provide comfort," to "promote safety of any person," "scene management," and "to bring potentially violent situations to a peaceful resolution."

"Patrol ruses may also be used for investigative purposes where there is reasonable suspicion of a crime," the policy states.