Seattle police change 'suspect' to 'community member' in UOF reports

Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey said labeling some as "suspect" can be misleading if they aren’t suspected of anything


By PoliceOne Staff

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department is changing their terminology in use of force reports.

Instead of calling a suspect a suspect, the new term will be “community member,” KIRO reported. 

A Seattle police officer sits with his hands on his knees near the scene of a shooting involving several police officers in downtown Seattle, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Seattle police officer sits with his hands on his knees near the scene of a shooting involving several police officers in downtown Seattle, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The change comes after Department of Justice oversight of the department and the use of a new online use of force reporting system, Blue Team. The term is used on multiple reports, but officers are taking specific issue with using the term in use of force reports. 

“The change appears to be part of a routine update by the software developer, which services more than 600 law enforcement agencies worldwide,” department spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee said. “The department’s force review section has not received any inquiries about the change.”

Multiple officers said the term “community member” is offensive due to their work with violent suspects. On April 21, three officers were wounded in a shooting while responding to a robbery, the Associated Press reported. Gunman Damarius Butts died in the shootout.

Police sources told KIRO that when the officers involved were writing their reports, they were required to call Butts a “community member” not “suspect.”

Seattle Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey told KIRO the changes are to improve accuracy in officers’ reports, and calling someone a suspect can be misleading if they aren’t suspected of anything. 

“Similarly, we don't know or inquire about citizenship status, so labeling someone a citizen is arbitrary,” Maxey said in an email. “Neither term is confusing at all.”

But Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Kevin Stucky said he thinks the term is vague.

“I don’t think you should have a broad stroke like that and call everybody the same thing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone who is a victim a victim, or calling someone who’s a suspect a suspect.”

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