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Federal Suit: Seattle Police Say ‘Use-Of-Force’ Policies Are Unconstitutional

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Seattle Police (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Seattle Police (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

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SEATTLE (CBS SEATTLE) – Seattle police are suing the city and U.S. Justice Department to challenge new “use of force” restrictions that they say are “unconstitutional” and endanger their lives.

More than 120 officers from the Seattle Police Department are seeking a complete dismantlement of the 2012 use-of-force policies that were agreed upon between an independent monitor, the police department and the Justice department following reports of excessive force being used by local authorities, particularly against minorities.

The civil lawsuit says the policies which went into effect this year, “unreasonably restrict and burden Plaintiffs’ right to use force reasonably required, to protect themselves and others from apparent harm and danger, in violation of the Second, Fourth Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution,” reads the complaint.

The new policies stem from a federal investigation into the SPD following an alleged pattern of excessive force being used by Seattle officers.

The civil suit was filed Wednesday and names Attorney General Eric Holder, the City of Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray, City Attorney Pete Holmes and federal monitor Merrick Bob.

The officers are seeking an immediate injunction against the use-of-force policies and a ruling declaring them unconstitutional.

The officers are also seeking awarded damages for lost wages, time and punitive damages for the “ungrounded maligning of the good work of SPD’s patrol officers,” KOMO-TV reports. The complaint states that the policies are “unconstitutional and beyond repair.”

“In some places it is overly complicated and contradictory, in other places overly precise and mechanical, but throughout, requires plaintiff to engage in mental gymnastics wholly unreasonable in light of the dangerous and fast evolving circumstances we face every day,” reads the complaint.

The U.S. Justice Department initially launched the civil rights investigation into the Seattle Police Department following a 2011 fatal shooting of a homeless Native American man in addition to several other incidents involving excessive force against minorities.

However, the president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild says the union doesn’t back the suit.

“We’re not going to accomplish anything suing the federal government, suing the mayor of Seattle, suing the police chief — that’s not the way to handle it. The way to handle is a collaborative process,” union President Ron Smith told KOMO.

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