An incident last night in the Denny regrade, in which an officer fatally shot a man who refused to comply with a police officer's orders, is raising questions in comments and around the city—was this an excessive use of force? Couldn't the officer have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue this man instead? Does the Seattle Police Department need more de-escalation training?

Here are the basic facts of yesterday's shooting, as reported by the the SPD Blotter:

The officer noted that the man was holding a knife [and was whittling, according to other reports]. The officer thought that this was unusual and potentially dangerous behavior. The officer stopped his patrol car and made contact with the man. The officer instructed the man to put the knife down. The man refused and stood up to face the officer with the knife still in hand. The officer again ordered the man to put the knife down. When the man refused the officer fired several shots, fatally striking the man. has more details.

It's worth noting that before John Diaz was sworn in as the police chief on August 16, the Seattle City Council presented him with a four-point letter highlighting the areas where the Seattle Police Department needs to make dramatic improvements. One of areas was in the department's training and emphasis of de-escalation techniques.

The council wrote that Diaz needed to "quickly develop and fully implement the most effective training available for minimizing and de-escalating conflict in encounters between officers and civilians."

How is that coming along?

"I know that's being worked on," says Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a spokesman for SPD, referring to the departments plans to invest in more de-escalation training for officers. But he also notes that SPD training is all de-escalation based at heart. "Officers are trained to enter into tense and possibly violent situations, gain control, and diffuse that possibility of violence," he says. "Sometimes force is necessary to do that."

The SPD isn't commenting on how far away the man was from the officer when he was shot, or whether or not the officer had non-lethal weapons like pepper spray or a Taser at his disposal.

And from what we know, the officer appears to have followed the correct protocol.

According to a 2001 SPD's report on officers' use of force (.pdf), the officer wouldn't have been trained to respond to a knife with these non-lethal weapons (like pepper spray or a Taser). The report states, "It is recommended that officers meet force with superior force," meaning officers are trained, if they see person armed with a lethal weapon—like a knife—to reach for their guns. However, the report states that officers are also "trained to call for back up in use of force situations. This is done to prevent an incident from escalating to the point that a greater use of force may be required."

Given these facts, once the officer spotted the man holding a knife, he knew that he might have to employ his gun. But the man was whittling when the officer contacted him—not threatening anyone or posing any immediate danger—meaning the officer wasn't diffusing a violent situation. Why, then, didn't he wait for for backup—as the reports suggests officers should be trained to do?

It's impossible to know exactly what happened in this situation, and SPD isn't commenting further at this point. However, situations like this—minor incidents that escalate to death—would raise fewer questions if SPD showed the public that it was committed to investing in more de-escalation training, as council members urged earlier this month.

UPDATE: SPD is holding a press conference at 3:30 p.m. today to address yesterday's fatal shooting.