Mission Station officers are flagged at more than three times the department’s overall use of force rate

A relatively low percentage of San Francisco Police Department officers are repeatedly using force while on duty, according to department data. That trend, however, does not apply to officers at Mission Station, many of whom have been flagged for repeatedly using some kind of force.

Roughly 25 percent of SFPD officers in 2018 were given at least one “alert” by the department’s so-called Early Intervention System — essentially a tally system that raises a flag if an officer uses force three or more times, receives a citizen complaint three or more times, is being investigated by internal affairs, or is involved in some form of civil litigation.

That number jumped to 78 percent in the Mission District.

“We see that the Mission Station has by far the most alerts for a station … ” said Police Commission President Bob Hirsch at Wednesday’s meeting. “I’m just wondering: What does the department do with numbers like this? Because they jump out at us.”

All told, 125 officers at Mission Station received 215 total alerts in 2018. Compare that to the 117 alerts issued to 43 officers at Bayview Station.

“Is there any way to analyze whether this is a cultural issue,” Hirsch continued, “or are they inclined to use more force than one of the other stations?”

The system is meant to identify problem officers and allow supervisors to intervene before those officers’ behavior becomes more problematic. That intervention, however, comes at the discretion of supervising officers and few formally intervene.

Of the 192 officers citywide who received two or more alerts in 2018, supervisors initiated only five interventions.

Many of the alerts come from repeated use of force, according to the data.

Around 597 officers out of the SFPD’s current membership of 2,330 officers received an alert in 2018.

A total of 389 officers stationed in a district received alerts. Other units that receive alerts are the Gang Task Force, Tactical, and SVU units — which are not represented here. Image courtesy of the SFPD.

At Mission Station, however, 78 percent of the station’s roughly 160 officers received at least one alert in 2018. Around 70 percent of those alerts stemmed from repeated use of force — and 93 percent stemmed from either repeated use of force, repeated citizen complaints, or an internal affairs investigation.

SFPD Sgt. Stacy Youngblood told Hirsch that those numbers could be high because Mission Station receives a high number of calls for service. The SFPD did not include calls for service in its 2018 report, but in 2016 Mission Station received more than 90,000 calls — the most in the city. Central Station, the next highest, received more than 84,000.

But only 44 of Central Station’s roughly 149 officers received at least one alert in 2018.

Youngblood said only a forthcoming analysis by the University of Chicago could begin to answer Hirsch’s questions. The university has been contracted to analyze department data and its report is expected in the next couple of weeks, he said.

Although the department releases quarterly reports on the system’s data, Mission Local had to specifically request the number of officers receiving alerts by station.

Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday interjected to add that it’s the department’s responsibility to look at the numbers and act. “There are cultural issues or maybe training issues that might impact these numbers one way or another … ,” he told the commissioners. “That’s up to the management or leadership to take this data and take it to that next step.”