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Seattle Introduces Anti-Ruse Policy For City Police After Scandals

Seattle has adopted a policy limiting law enforcement from using ruses outside of five specific circumstances, Scripps News reports. The first-of-its-kind policy is aimed at increasing public trust in law enforcement. The five circumstances where ruses are allowed are to further deescalate a situation, to calm or provide comfort to a person, to promote a person's safety, for scene management or to bring a potentially violent situation to a peaceful resolution. The policy also allows ruses in the case of investigations in which there is reasonable suspicion of a crime, not including misdemeanor property crime investigations. Two cases, one in 2018 and one in 2020, undermined public confidence in the police due to officers knowingly making untrue statements.

In 2018, a Seattle officer falsely told the friend of a suspect in a fender bender that the man had critically injured a woman in the crash. The man later died by suicide, and his family alleges the ruse contributed to his taking his own life. In 2020 during Black Lives Matter protests, Seattle police falsely claimed in radio broadcasts that armed and agitated members of the right-wing Proud Boys were marching through the city, moving toward the Capitol Hill Organized Protest area. Seemingly in regards to the 2020 ruse, the new policy forbids officers from broadcasting a ruse over radio, social media or any mass media format. It also requires supervisor consent and proper documentation after the fact. In an apparent nod to the 2018 case, the policy states no ruse can shock the conscience, meaning it can't create a form of deception that "falls outside the standards of civilized decency and seems grossly unjust to the observer."


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