SFPD Officers Using Less Force

While police violence was down last quarter, volatile race relationships are still very much at play.

The San Francisco Police Department released its quarterly report on the use of force this week, complete with statistics on how many officers fired their guns, used pepper spray, or physically struck suspects. In a department plagued by its violent history — such as when officers killed six people in 2015 — it came as a welcome surprise that, for the first time years, violence between police and suspects has decreased citywide.

The quarterly statistics (which are available to the public) show that from July to September, the SFPD used force in its interactions with 622 people — down from 916 in the prior quarter.

Of these, the sharpest decrease occurred at Bayview Station, where officers only used force in 91 incidents, down 59 percent from the same period last year. Tenderloin Station was close behind, with a 54 percent drop.

But race relations between police and suspects are not faring any better: White male officers logged 310 incidents of force between July and September — the most of any gender and race combination in the department. And the data shows it’s on the rise, with a shocking 1,292 percent increase over last year’s third-quarter stats, where only 13 white male officers were reported as using force.

Black men are still targeted violently more than any other demographic, with 155 suspects on the receiving end of some form of force from SFPD officers in the third quarter — a barely significant three fewer than last year.

In other words, use-of-force citywide is on the decline, but Black men have not benefited. And as the Police Commission approved the use of Tasers last week, cops will have a whole new tool in their arsenal by December 2018. Let’s hope that all that diversity training they brag about kicks in by then.

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