SEATTLE -

 A federal judge has approved a new Seattle police department policy detailing when officers can use force and requiring all but minimal force to be reported.

The policy is a major step toward helping the city to comply with a July 2012 settlement agreement with Justice Department to curtail excessive use of force and curb biased policing.

 U.S. District Judge James L. Robart yesterday accepted the policy which defines force, lists guidelines for every weapon used, and requires the most serious uses of force to be investigated by a special team.

Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement that the reforms will help foster greater accountability.

The DOJ determined that Seattle police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessively using force, especially in low-level situations that might have been resolved verbally.