Latest report shows decline in use of force by San Francisco police

The San Francisco Police Department credits de-escalation training, crisis intervention training and improved communication tactics for a decline in the department's use of force.

By the nature of their job, officers encounter high-stress situations and people in distress. But the department's latest quarterly report shows year use of force is down 24 percent over the same period just last year, with 500 reported uses of force, out of nearly 200,000 calls for service.


And since July 2016 the department says there has been a 47 percent decrease in the use of force. The department following a mandate to safeguard human life and dignity. "Which highlights our use of force policy, which highlights the sanctity of life, de-escalation, communication and concepts we've gathered through talking to other agencies across the country and best practices," said Deputy Chief Greg Yee from the San Francisco Police Department.

SFPD credits a focus on decreasing the use of force and ongoing training on how to de-escalate high-stress situations with crisis intervention training. In some cases officers can defuse a situation just by changing their language, using questions instead of demands. "The simple question of, hey drop the knife, drop the knife, can turn into why do you have the knife and start the dialog into the person they're encountering, why they have a knife," said Deputy Chief Yee.

Paul Henderson, head of the city's Department of Police Accountability says the numbers are encouraging. "I think it's a great beginning of the conversation to have information like this," he said."Some of the things we're interested in seeing is accurate information about where that information is coming from."

But Henderson says more needs to be done to sift through those numbers to see how the department is arriving at those results, in particular for a agency responsible for reporting on itself.

"How can we improve this process? How can we make it more transparent, how can we make it more accurate, how can we make it influential in making sure that the trend to diminish use of force continues," he said. 

San Francisco requires the police department to update city leaders quarterly about the use of force. The department highlighted in this most recent report that there has not been an officer-involved shooting where someone died since June 2018.