Everyone knows that the government exists to protect the people. Ask any politician or watch any campaign commercial and you will find someone falling over themselves in an attempt to present the view that government employees are servants of the people. And the police? They live to “serve and protect” of course!

So what would you expect to happen when a particular police agency comes under investigation by the Department of Justice for a civil rights investigation? Well in the case of the Seattle Police Department, the DoJ investigation “revealed that inadequate systems of supervision and oversight have permitted systemic use of force violations to persist” and ordered changes in their policy. But wait! It’s just getting interesting.

What exactly is a “systematic use of force violation” you ask? According to the DoJ investigation these include such things as: “When SPD officers use force, they do so in an unconstitutional manner nearly 20 percent of the time; SPD officers too quickly resort to the use of impact weapons, such as batons and flashlights. When SPD officers use batons, 57 percent of the time it is either unnecessary or excessive; SPD officers escalate situations, and use unnecessary or excessive force, when arresting individuals for minor offenses.”

As of January 1, the SPD officers have had a new policy on use of force. This new policy requires that officers “use only the force necessary to perform their duties” and “with minimal reliance upon the use of physical force.” Furthermore, it requires that all but the most “minimal” use of force be reported to supervisors for review. These new policies seem to be in line with other attempts around the country at reducing a seemingly increasing tide of excessive force. For example, police in Rialto, CA have been equipped with tiny personal cameras resulting in a dramatic 88% reduction in public complaint and 60% decline in use of force. It’s amazing what accountability does for a person’s demeanor!

But what about the police force in Seattle? How did they react to a little bit of accountability? Well, with a federal lawsuit of course!

This past Wednesday, four Seattle police officers along with “122 other Officers” filed a suit against Attorney General Eric Holder, the city of Seattle, the mayor, Chief of Police, and numerous other individuals. What for, you ask? Well, they contend that the new use of force policies “unreasonably restrict and burden Plaintiff’s 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.”

That’s right, the Constitution protects violence! According to these guys, “research shows, overwhelmingly, that police officers under-react and hesitate in the face of threats of violence, and are often killed or seriously injured as a result.” According to the SPD website, four officers were killed in the line of duty between 2000 and 2010, three of which were accidents. In a very brief internet search I found many people killed by police, seemingly without warrant (after all, this was a major reason for the initiation of the DoJ investigation). This is certainly not a rigorous investigation, but it most definitely brings into question the claim that officers are “often killed” due to their under-reactions.

While I am sure their dispute with the policy being confusing and excessively long is well warranted, I am equally positive that the Constitution does not protect the right of government agents to use force on those they are allegedly serving. Perhaps they would prefer a camera?