Little white lies no longer have a place in the Seattle Police Department. The city instituted a new policy that limits the Seattle Police Department’s ability to lie on the job, citing recent instances where the public has lost trust in its officials.
With this new policy, police will not be able to use a statement an officer knows is a lie over any mass media or in any way that will “shock the conscience.” It also now requires any officers looking to use ruses to get permission before doing so.
The Office of the Inspector General for Public Safety and Lisa Herbold, city councilmember, worked together to get the policy change passed after incidents that happened in 2018 and 2020, when a lie may have contributed to a suicide and a ruse incited chaos during the George Floyd Protests.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the policy change on October 30, 2023. When making the announcement, he emphasized that the public trust lost during the use of these lies heavily outweighs any benefits gained by officers.
“Effective public safety requires community buy-in, and this new policy is an important step to build understanding with the public, demonstrating that for SPD operations to be successful, they must be paired with a commitment to unbiased, constitutional policing,” Harrell said in a statement.
He continued: “This innovative new policy will lead to better police work thanks to the voices of many, including the media who brought attention to this tactic, community members who called for guidelines to match our values, and Seattle accountability and police leaders who developed a plan to make that vision real.”
Due to this policy change, the main uses for ruses are now to de-escalate situations, to help calm people down or to promote safety. According to Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, the policy is the first of its kind in the United States. It continues SPD’s “long tradition of public safety innovation rooted in accountability and a commitment to building public confidence.”