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.