San Diego Police Department Documents 16K Force Incidents - NBC 7 San Diego

San Diego Police Department Documents 16K Force Incidents

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    SDPD Used Force in 16K Incidents Last Year: Data

    SDPD officers documented 16,238 incidents in which they used some type of force, new data shows. NBC 7's Wendy Fry reports. (Published Monday, Jan. 12, 2015)

    In 2014, San Diego police documented 16,238 incidents in which an officer used force, like drawing his weapon or firing a taser.

    Officers self-assess whether a particular "use of force" incident was effective or not, and SDPD says force has been effective 90 percent of the time.

    NBC7 requested SDPD data related to force incidents on Nov. 16.

    We received this two-page .pdf document on Dec. 16 detailing how many times different force options were used between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 1, 2014, nearly a year.

    SDPD says information, such as where these incidents occured, injuries and surrounding circumstances, are not legally required to be disclosed because of the "investigations" exemption in the California Public Records Act.

    San Diego police receive nearly a million calls for service a year and dispatch officers to at least half of those calls.

    "Even before they arrive on scene, the officers are looking at the dispatches and they're thinking about things. They're wondering where the situation is taking place. They're wondering if they have adequate resources," said SDPD Sgt. Jeffrey Jordon, who is the vice-president of the San Diego Police Officers Association.

    With the halls of his police association lined with photos of officers lost, Jordon said somewhere in this city, an officer is going to face violence every single day.

    "It's the only job I know of that going into it, when you take this job, you know you're going to get punched in the face at some point," Jordon said.

    NBC 7 found officers documented using their own physical strength the most often with 7,409 incidents. They used the foam batton least with only six documented incidents.

    Jordon warned that the figures may be compounded with different officers involved in a single incident or officers having to escalate force until compliance is achieved.

    "In each and every one of those cases, no matter what they're doing from pointing a handgun, deploying a canine, potentially firing a taser, or using less lethal force, and maybe firing bean bag rounds, every single one of those is documented, even though it's one incident, there could be ten uses of force on that one incident," he said.

    Officers pointed their firearms 1,658 times in 2014, and used a carotid restraint, otherwise known as a chokehold, 246 times, the data shows.

    Police document the effectiveness of the force used by whether compliance is achieved "to mitigate the risk of this person we may be using force against from getting out and injuring a large number of citizens. And that constantly plays into the officer's mind as they deploy force," said Jordon.

    SDPD officers rated themselves with a nearly 90 percent effective rate on force options used. The most effective was the "take down," and the least was the foam batton that is rarely used.

    In general, the data shows more effective force options are used more often and those rated least effective were used less often.

    However, when an officer marks that a force option had "unknown effectiveness," it is lumped into the effective percentage.

    "The unknown category cannot be ruled out as being effective," Lt. Kevin Mayer said.

    Attorney Gene Iredale represents clients in wrongful death and law enforcement use of force cases.

    He believes more oversight is needed.

    "Most of the time, that force is probably reasonable and justified, but sometimes, and unfortantely many times, people are killed who need not be killed, people are beaten who need not be beaten or brutalized," Iredale said.

    NBC 7 also found that San Diego has nearly twice as many officer-involved shootings than any other city, out of more than 40 mid-size cities surveyed. The 25 officer-involved shootings in San Diego for 2012, 2013 and most of 2014 involved at least 12 fatalities.

    The police departments with the next highest figures for officer-involved shootings were Dallas Police Department, which had 12 total, and Fort Worth Police Department with 14 in the same years.

    SDPD had no response to questions about those figures.

    Executive Producer Lynn Walsh contributed to this report.