9th Circuit Rules in Favor of Seattle Ufo Policy: Does It Really Matter?

Sept. 19, 2017 -the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City of Seattle in a lawsuit brought against it by over 100 of its own police officers regarding a Use of Force Policy the officers claimed was unconstitutional. Almost immediately pro-police and conservative gun rights organizations labeled the decision ” a step backward for police” and “in clear violation of previous rulings issued by the U.S. Supreme Court” concerning use of force by police officers. But, is it really that bad? Has this win by the City of Seattle actually hasn’t run police and their ability to use force when necessary?


In 2013 the City of Seattle, as part of a Consent Decree following a Department of Justice investigation, instituted a new Use of Force Policy. This policy stated, in part, those police officers in the employment of the City of Seattle “shall only use objectively reasonable force, proportional to the threat or urgency of the situation”. The policy continued by outlining a series of factors officers were to consider, and de-escalation techniques they should use, prior to using force.

Not long after the policy was released a group of 125 officers sued the City, claiming the policy was unconstitutional and violated their right to defend themselves with department-issued firearms, a violation of the Second Amendment. Of course, that is a moot point now that the court has ruled.


So where does this leave law enforcement?

Honestly, unless you work in the City of Seattle this ruling has ZERO impact on you. Despite arguments to the contrary, this ruling does not relay the framework under which use of force cases are evaluated by the justice system. It does not change what was previously issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. O’Connor. The rules are the same; the case will still be reviewed under Graham – unless you work in Seattle.

If you work in Seattle the courts will still rely on Graham v. O’Connor in determining if your use of force was justified. However, internal reviews will rely upon a combination of Graham AND the City Policy. What this means is you may be found to have been in compliance in terms of legal requirements (Graham) but still face discipline for violations of policy. In other words, you will be a freeman, but potentially an unemployed man as well.

While I feel for my brothers and sisters in Seattle and wish you well I have to agree with the 9th Circuit on this one. Although it pains me to say so, especially given that particular court’s tendency to rewrite the law in a negative way, this was not a 2nd Amendment issue it was about an employer’s right to govern its workforce as it sees fit. None the less you may wish to investigate a lateral transfer to another department.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

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