SFPD patrol car
Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

While the city had its attention on killer robots last week, the San Francisco Police Department quietly released data showing that the department nearly doubled its use-of-force cases in a single quarter. 

Officers reported 609 use-of-force instances in the second quarter of 2022, compared to just 328 in the first three months of the year, according to the SFPD’s Quarterly Activity and Data Report. 

Use of force by the SFPD has steadily declined over the past several years, and the last six quarters prior to 2022 saw numbers hovering in the 300s. The last time police reported more than 600 use-of-force cases in a single quarter was in 2018. 

The SFPD has expressed frustration with a new use-of-force policy that the city’s Police Commission passed this spring, saying the new reporting requirements were causing skyrocketing case counts and burdensome extra administrative work for police. 

Under the new reporting requirements, the SFPD’s use-of-force appears through the roof: The total instances of “force” used by police jumped to 2,204 in the second quarter of 2022. 

But the department’s recent report for April through June takes into account changes under the new policy. It filters for cases that would count as a use of force, according to prior standards, to make its analyses and year-over-year comparisons. 

Even then, the number of use-of-force instances nearly doubled. 

For some uses, the surge was even more dramatic. Compared to the second quarter of 2021, physical controls and takedowns more than doubled, and officers pointed their firearms at people nearly twice as many times. Racial disparities remained: More than 4 in 1,000 Black people and 1.2 in 1,000 Latinxs had force used on them, compared to about 0.5 in 1,000 whites. 

A new use-of-force policy required officers this year to report when they have their guns at a “low-ready” position. It also required reporting of all physical controls and takedowns, including attempts to overcome any sort of physical resistance, regardless of whether the person reported pain. 

In November, the Police Commission retracted some of those requirements with a revised use-of-force policy, clarifying some language and heeding SFPD complaints that the new reporting requirements were impractical. 

Even when “comparing apples to apples” under the old rules, the police department blamed “over-reporting” by its members for its high use-of-force numbers in the report.  

The data didn’t capture a “like-for-like comparison,” read one section of the SFPD’s report, “despite best efforts.” 

Police Commissioner Jesús Gabriel Yáñez told Mission Local that he had previously asked the police department to explain increasing use-of-force levels, but said that the department “explained it away” by blaming the policy changes. Now that the data has been adjusted for those changes, he said he is interested to hear what the new explanation is. 

Image from SFPD’s Quarterly Activity & Data Report, for quarter 2 of 2022

“Such a high percentage of actions are requiring use-of-force reporting; that, alone, is an indicator of concerning behavior,” Yáñez said. 

Yáñez and other commissioners, when asked by Mission Local, were unaware that the new report was posted by the SFPD last week, more than four months after its August due date.

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REPORTER. Eleni reports on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim more than 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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    You people are complete morons. You change the use of force rules which basically is triggered if you even touch a person and then wonder why numbers go up. Police officers are leaving SF in record numbers, retirements are at an all time high. They attempted to hire 50 new officers for a police academy and were able to find 15 candidates. 6 of those quit the first week. The department is down 500 officers and it’s only going to get worse. No one wants to be a police officer in SF because of the political climate. Most of the BOS
    Openly vilify the SFPD weekly, the police commission is filled with anti-police advocates and San Franciscans wonder why no one wants to be a cop in this City. SF needs to wake up at some point!!

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  2. This “use of force” is so vague, it’s not saying a whole lot of anything meaningful. To arrest someone that isn’t listening, cooperating, you have too force the Payson into submission by forcing them, that can be done mindfully without too much damage, but obviously there’s going to be pain, even brighten bones if it escalates. The cop can try to deescalate, but not all the time.
    The key I think should be to focus on successfully taking a pertain down without too much damage. IE not shoot first, without heavy damaging strike of possible.
    There’s middle of the road approach. Being physically competent to wrestle someone to the ground with the goal to cuff them. Beyond that, it gets into the “harming” part, where the cop needs to back off from their combat mode. Not easy thing to master. That all comes with long term training in martial art, and learning to remain calm, not freeze up, or panic, but rather go through the motion while being mindful. Sorry for the long drawn out comment. Glad you read thru if I haven’t lost you.

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  3. “Yáñez and other commissioners, when asked by Mission Local, were unaware that the new report was posted by the SFPD last week, more than four months after its August due date.” Amazing.
    The police are clearly not interested in working with the commission: they basically do whatever they want, and ignore all oversight.
    Thank you for staying on top of this with such consistently solid reporting.

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    1. I have no live fir sfpd, but the commission seems to be just as clueless. That’s a problem too. Four months kate – why weren’t they shouting from the mountaintops? And once it’s posted they don’t know for a week!?!

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