Despite a citywide reduction in police using force in the third quarter of this year, the Mission District accounted for the highest number of times officers used force — and has actually seen an uptick, according to use-of-force data released by the SFPD.

In the third quarter of 2017, the police reported 622 uses of force citywide, down 32.1 percent from 916 in the same period of 2016.

However, the Mission police district — which encompasses most of the Mission and the Castro — saw a 13-percent increase in the number of times officers used force, from 123 in the third quarter of 2016 to 139 during the same period this year. The Mission District accounted for 22.35 percent of the times in which police used force in the city.  

In a recent interview with Mission Local, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott attributed the reduction in citywide use of force to more crisis-intervention-trained officers — which he said was now at 800, about a third of the department. He also said that it might also be attributed in part to the department’s use of body-worn cameras, which the department adopted in June 2016.

He also pointed to the department’s revised use-of-force policy, which now emphasizes “de-escalation” and time-and-distance in lieu of quicker, at times more violent, methods of quelling a situation.

“Now you have a generation of police officers that are being trained, and de-escalation is on the forefront of their thoughts,” he said.

He prefaced his remarks on the fact that the SFPD is seeking an academic analysis of the data so the department can “make some sense of all this.” He said the department is working on an Memorandum of Understanding with an outside organization, which he said he couldn’t disclose.

“The biggest challenge for us is keeping that train going in the right direction,” he added. “At the end of the day, what we want to do is use the least amount of force to resolve the situation — and, hopefully, no force.”

Scott was unclear why officers’ use of force in the Mission District was so high.

“Mission is a very busy district, and geographically it’s a very large district,” he said, although he did not want to discuss the reasons further without proper academic analysis.  

The Mission is indeed one of the busiest stations; in 2016, it had more than 90,000 calls for service, by far the most of any police district.

Map of “uses of force” by police district for the third quarter of 2017. Image courtesy of the SFPD.

In the first three quarters of 2017, the Mission logged 467 separate times force was used by individual officers, and 196 use-of-force incidents. Officers used force on a total of 251 people in the Mission.

“Use of force” can include a variety of actions, including pointing a firearm at an individual or using an impact weapon, such as a baton. A use-of-force “incident” is any time an officer or group of officers responds to a crime and uses force. Multiple uses of force can be take place during a use-of-force incident.

Although the incident may involve one crime, each officer involved can commit a separate use of force, and can use force more than once, which helps to explain the differences between the people, the number of incidents, and the number of times force is used per incident.

In the Mission, most uses of force involved “pointing of firearms” at 84 — the most of any district. The second highest was “physical control” at 39, “strike by object/fist” at 11, less-lethal firearm at 3, and “impact weapon” at 2. These uses of force occurred during 64 total use-of-force incidents.

In the third quarter alone, the number of people on whom police used force was up 19.4 percent in the Mission to 74 in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year.  The 74 — the highest of any police district — accounted for 20.9 percent of the citywide total.

That total was down by 16.3 percent to 354 people, compared to 423 during the same period last year.  

Citywide, force was used disproportionately on black men, as they accounted for 43.7 percent of the of the times force was used, but make up less than 6 percent of the city’s population. White men accounted for 22.5 percent of the times force was used and are more than 53.5 percent of the population, while Hispanic men accounted for 16.2 percent of the incidents and make up 15.2 percent of the population.  

The quarterly use of force report did not offer a district-by-district breakdown of the gender and ethnicity of the subjects on whom police used force, but did detail arrests by district and the kinds of people who were arrested.

Hispanic and black men accounted for more than half of all arrests in the Mission during the reporting period.

In the third quarter of 2017, police arrested 955 individuals in the Mission, the most of any district at 17.28 percent of all arrests.  

Hispanic men made up 28.4 percent of the arrests in the Mission, white men, 24.3 percent and black men, 24.1 percent.

Arrests in the Mission were up 15 percent from last year.

So far this year, in the Mission District, police have arrested 2,795 people.

Individuals between 18 to 29 years old comprised 40 percent of all arrests in the Mission, while people between 30 to 39 made up 28 percent of the arrests.

Calls to report violent crime prompted 22.3 percent of the use of force incidents in the Mission, while calls to report property crime accounted for 18.7 percent. “Mental health-related” and persons with a knife each comprised 10.1 percent of the incidents.

Search and arrest warrant calls led to 9.4 percent of the times officers used force, “person with a gun” led to 7.2 percent, and suspicious persons lead to 6.4 percent.

Other calls for service — traffic-related, terrorist threats, restraining order violations, field interviews, disturbance calls and weapon carrying — accounted for less than five percent apiece.