Mission Police Station. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

In 2019, Mission Station police officers pointed their guns at civilians more often than cops at any other San Francisco police station — twice as often, in fact. 

In addition to pointing guns at civilians, Mission Station officers are using more force of all kinds than officers at any other police station — even those stations with similar rates of violent crime, calls for service, and arrests. 

That’s according to San Francisco Police Department data, which Mission Local examined in the wake the Jamaica Hampton shooting on Dec. 7. Hampton attacked the officers with a glass bottle near Mission and 23rd, a chase ensued, and a pair of Mission Station officers ended up shooting Hampton three times, critically injuring him. 

In the first two quarters of 2019, Mission Station reported twice as many instances of officers pointing their guns at people than officers at Tenderloin Station (107 instances to 53), and 31 percent more use of force incidents (201 to 146). That’s despite Mission Station deploying 144 officers to Tenderloin’s 157. 

Through the first half of 2019, Mission officers were flagged at a higher rate in the department’s “early intervention system,” which is designed to track individual officers’ use-of-force, citizen complaints, and lawsuits. In the first six months of this year, Mission Station officers received 80 alerts compared to Tenderloin officers’ 50. In 2018, some 78 percent of Mission officers received alerts, while only 25 percent of officers received alerts in the Tenderloin. 

Department officials said during an Oct. 9 Police Commission meeting that Mission Station’s high use-of-force rates can be explained by its high calls-for-service volumes, and its violent crime and arrest rates. 

Tenderloin Station, however, is comparable to Mission Station by every one of those metrics. In the first two quarters of 2019, Mission Station reported 463 violent crimes to Tenderloin’s 412 — a 12 percent difference. But Mission officers used force 31 percent more than their Tenderloin colleagues, and pointed their guns at civilians at double the rate.  

Tenderloin Station, incidentally, recorded more arrests in the time period: 1,843 to the Mission’s 1,787. 

The SFPD does not regularly report calls-for-service — but during the Oct. 9 presentation officials reported that, from March to June, Southern Station, which patrols SoMa, received the most calls at 26,378, followed by Central Station 23,469. Mission Station received the third-most with 22,772.

This also appears to belie the department’s justification for the amount of force used by Mission Station officers. 

But if there aren’t more calls, the SFPD claims the Mission’s are bigger. 

“What we are finding,” said Sgt. Wesley Villaruel at that Oct. 9 meeting, “is that Mission Station seems to have a higher number of officers engaged in a single event.” 

He cited one example in which eight officers used 24 different acts of force on three people during a “high-risk felony stop.” This kind of statistical build-up also occurred in the case of Jesus Delgado, an armed teenager whom 10 officers fatally shot with 99 bullets while he was lying in a car trunk in March 2018.

Villaruel also said Mission Station performs a “significant amount of firearm seizures” — but the station is “not too far up there” compared to other stations. 

Asked for a fresh explanation by Mission Local, SFPD spokesman David Stevenson wrote in an email that the department “is engaging with academic partners to look at our use of force numbers.”

(One report analyzing use-of-force was slated to be released in November — but that report has not yet been released, and it was using numbers from 2017.) 

“Each district faces its own specific challenges, though uses of force continue to decline across all stations,” Stevenson added. “Station staffing is often augmented by outside units — including investigators and Honda [motorbike] units — which may affect arrest rates.”

But John Alden, executive director of Oakland’s Community Police Review Agency, said the trend may not necessarily be due to external factors like calls-for-service, arrests, and violent crime — but, rather, internal ones. 

“Every Station at SFPD has a culture, reinforced by each officer’s right to pick their station assignment, so some wonder if this trend is caused by Mission Station’s culture,” said Alden, who was formerly the managing attorney at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Independent Investigations Bureau, which investigates police shootings. 

Alden added that the SFPD has not yet used the data it collects to “persuasively and publicly” explain Mission Station’s years of high use of force, citizen complaints, and civil lawsuits. 

He said the department should invest in data-driven “honest self-reflection” to understand the trend — the same manner as departments elsewhere, such as the Oakland and Los Angeles police departments. At those agencies, Alden said, internal investigators analyze use-of-force trends to make improvements and give cogent public explanations.  

“We haven’t seen any of that yet from SFPD,” he said, explaining that civilian-led auditing of this manner has yet to be funded in San Francisco, and entrusted to agencies like the Department of Police Accountability, the SFPD’s civilian watchdog. 

John Hamasaki, who sits on the seven-member Police Commission, acknowledged Mission Station’s high use-of-force numbers — but said “it is difficult to draw any clear conclusions from the raw numbers.” 

He called for deeper analysis to determine whether the force is “justified by the calls and the reports of violent crime.”

Like Alden, Hamasaki said the data could highlight internal issues. “High use of force numbers should trigger further scrutiny to ensure that there are not cultural and training issues at a particular station under particular leadership,” he said.  

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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13 Comments

    1. Ya think?

      The “culture” in the Tenderloin is nodding off with a needle stuck in your arm.

      The “culture” in the Mission – macho males drinking and fighting?

      The “culture” of the SFPD – they all train the same, they all belong to the same “culture”.

      The article is trying to make this about the Mission SFPD but it should be about the “culture” that the SFPD has to deal with.

      Or maybe the article could have been about the people who live in the Mission who call the police because they want a safe neighborhood- compare that to the Tenderloin. SoMa and the Loin “calls-for -service” – are they for ODs while the Mission are for safety?

      1. Oh really! Is everyone who lives in the Tenderloin a junkie? And does the Mission have more ”macho males drinking and fighting” than any other district? And because all cops go through a common training program (which is completely opaque to outsiders) they all have the same culture? Really? This is the kind of insightful analysis I would expect from the POA newsletter. BTW, another interpretation of the data would be that there are fewer calls from the Loin because everyone there has either nodded off or OD’d

    1. I’ve had the same thing happen to me.

      A polite but critical comment about a story does not get approved.
      It seems that ML is not a neutral platform.

      1. Dear sir or madam —

        These comments are approved, manually, in real time. The above commenter seemed a bit put out that his comments made on Christmas Day and 8 a.m. on Dec. 26 weren’t immediately approved.

        No news website has any obligation to publish every comment. But if your comments were indeed polite and neutral, they probably were eventually published.

        We tend not to publish ad hominem attacks, insults, inane comments, hearsay, disconnected rants, claims that require excess fact-checking, or stuff that, for lack of a better word, is just plain stupid or without redeeming features and drags down our site.

        Thanks,

        JE

  1. What happens to the numbers if you remove the single 99-bullet / 10 officer Delgado incident? It’s an anomaly Incident, that may skew the numbers.

  2. C’mon, Officers aren’t just pointing guns at random people. They are responding to the active criminals among law abiding Mission residents. Let’s dig down on those numbers. Why are Mission criminals so active in stealing from and assaulting their neighbors and confronting Officers? Like poor Jesus Delgado who is described as simply lying in a car trunk when he was shot by SFPD? Except the part left out is that he had just robbed someone with a gun and still had it on him. Poor Jesus, evil SFPD, right?

    1. According to ML’s own reporting he used the gun to fire a shot from the trunk after police loudspeakers told him to surrender, in Spanish,

      1. Yes, and had you actually read the article rather than trolling to defend the cops in every instance, you would have learned that indeed Delgado was armed, but you would have also read that the scene was chaotic with no one from the cops in charge and no plan put forth how to deal with Delgado (who btw was only a suspect at the time). While cops were shouting at Delgado in english, one police officer was actually trying to communicate with Delgado, a scared kid, in Spanish, trying to get him to give up and throw his gun out of the trunk. Then a cop, under no orders, with no provocation or justification, fired bean bags shots at the trunk, igniting the situation which caused Delgado’s death. The confrontation was a perfect opportunity for the cops to practice desescalation and establish time and distance coordinates. This is explicit use of force policy and appears to be what the officer communicating in Spanish seemed to be attempting.

  3. There’s a high percentage of vagrants and low lifes in the Mission. Just walk past the 16th St. BART stop at any hour of the day People with no respect for their surroundings pissing on the street and tossing garbage on the ground 10 feet from a waste can. It’s tough for the police to deal with all these morons. Sometimes a officer in blue pointing a gun at your torso is what these clowns need to stand down. If there weren’t police in the Mission this place would be a complete shit hole. Do people not remember how bad this area was just 10 years ago?

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