The San Francisco Police Department used force more often on Black people than other racial groups in the last quarter of 2022 — more than it has since a major policy revamp and reporting began in 2016 — according to a report from the department.
Black people were 25 times more likely than white people to have force used on them in the last quarter of 2022.
In the previous quarter, the disparity was a magnitude of 11, and the highest disparity on record dated back to 2016, when Black people experienced force from police 16 times as much as white people.
This data was collected by the SFPD and included in its Quarterly Activity and Data Report. But on Wednesday night, when the department’s Strategic Management Bureau presented highlights from the report before the Police Commission, this disparity was not included.
In his presentation, program manager Jason Cunningham presented a use-of-force disparity analysis that left out 2022 altogether.
Commissioners, with their president and vice president absent on Wednesday night — and perhaps not having seen the data buried on page 50 of the quarterly report — asked no questions.
The department already reported a spike in overall use of force in the second quarter of 2022 across different ethnic groups. The instances where force was used decreased later in 2022, but disparities were marked.
Cunningham, in his presentation, repeatedly referred to ongoing racial disparities in San Francisco policing, but offered no explanations.
“This presentation focuses very much on the what, the where, the when and the whom, but doesn’t spend time discussing why,” Cunningham said, prefacing his slides.
And the written report’s two suggested considerations regarding the dramatic jump in racial disparity fell short.
One “factor” it offered was that the department used a shortened reporting period, excluding the last two weeks of the quarter. Its other reason for the disparity: “While uses of force against Black individuals declined … uses of force against White individuals declined significantly.” And the population, it said, remained steady.
Commissioner Kevin Benedicto told Mission Local that he had not looked through the full quarterly report before the SFPD’s presentation on Wednesday, and had thus been unaware of the widening racial gap in police use-of-force.
“I was surprised to see the jump in disparities, especially given the multiple years of progress,” Benedicto said, adding that he would request an explanation from the police department.
In his presentation, Cunningham gave a “sneak peek” at the department’s findings from early 2023, and said a full report will be available next week.
The police department has, in recent years, improved its yield rate, or the rate at which illegal activity is discovered upon conducting a search. This, Cunningham said, could point to more objectivity and less bias when officers initiate stops or ask to search civilians.
But, while overall the SFPD has stopped, searched, and arrested far fewer people since 2020, longstanding racial disparities are prevalent in who this police enforcement impacts.
Though Black people make up less than 6 percent of San Francisco’s population, they comprised 35 percent of the city’s arrests, and 23 percent of SFPD stops in the first quarter of this year.
And as arrests have crept up slightly in recent quarters, the percentage of Black and Latinx people arrested increased, while the percentage of white people arrested decreased.