San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, along with San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, announced on Wednesday the implementation of two police policy changes, including de-escalating the use of force and officer intervention in use of force incidents.
“Two new stand-alone policies will help reduce the use of force, embrace standards of accountability, increase public trust and protect against unnecessary loss of life,” Faulconer said.
The de-escalation policy will require officers, when safe and reasonable, to use techniques that can resolve situations either through lower levels of force, or no force at all, Faulconer explained. That includes creating a “buffer zone” between an officer and the subject to help reduce tensions or by calling on specialized resources such as the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT).
“Force should always be the last option. But SDPD can still use reasonable force levels if de-escalation tactics do not work," Faulconer said.
The other policy implemented, outlines the officer’s duty to intervene and requires officers to step in if another officer uses unreasonable force and mandates they report the incident to a supervisor.
"It’s an absolute – it’s a mandate – that if an officer sees an officer using force that is unreasonable for the resistance that the officer is trying to overcome, that the officer must intervene," Chief Nisleit said. "And it’s spelled out in that policy. I believe this policy is one of the most robust in the nation," Chief Nisleit said.
The duty to intervene policy details that an officer shall intervene using actions such as verbally advising the other officer or physically restraining the other officer to prevent or stop an escalation of force. Furthermore, the officer should report the intervention to a supervisor as soon as possible. The supervisor will then notify their chain of command and the appropriate unit will begin an investigation.
Disciplinary action will be taken against an officer who who fails to intervene when required.
Earlier in the month, Faulconer ordered emergency meetings hosted by two police review committees -- the Citizens Advisory Board on Police and Community Relations (CAB), the Community Review Board on Police Practices (CRB) -- centered on police policy change discussion. Faulconer and chief Nisleit urged the public to participate in the meetings.
"Today, the CAB commends Mayor Faulconer and SDPD Chief Nisleit for recognizing the current moment in San Diego as an impetus for addressing long-held community concerns about policing practices and policies," said Samantha Jenkins, CAB, and Executive Board Member, NAACP San Diego at Wednesday's press briefing.
The public's demands for reform were also heard when hundreds called into a city council meeting on June 8 to voice their opposition to a $27 million increase in funding for SDPD laid out in the mayor's 2021 budget. The city council voted 8-1 in favor of the new budget, and protesters showed up to Faulconer's home shortly after and chanted “Shame on you” from the sidewalk.
Earlier this month, Chief Nisleit announced the ban of the carotid restraint. Nisleit's policy change came after a week of nationwide protests demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck for more than eight minutes.