Officers in the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) documented a 13 percent increase in instances where force was used between 2014 and 2015 – with a sharp increase in the number of times an officer pulled a firearm on an individual.
Through the California Public Records Act, NBC 7 obtained data that details 15,995 instances where force was used in 2015.
The data is tracked so police can evaluate how effective their training is and which use of force works in different scenarios.
“It’s to determine the effectiveness of the force used so that it can be evaluated by our training division, so they can look and see how our training is going and if new training needs to be implemented,” said SDPD Sgt. Lisa McKean. “It’s just a way of us looking at ourselves so we can be the best police department we can be, and so we can serve the public in the best possible way.”
- Use of a taser went down nearly 20 percent between 2014 and 2015.
- Use of carotid restraint, a type of neck restraint, went down nearly 36 percent between 2014 and 2015.
- Number of instances when a police officer pointed a firearm at someone went up 55 percent between 2014 and 2015. Pointing a firearm at a person was documented 1,027 times in 2014 and 1,595 times in 2015.
Rev. Shane Harris, president of the National Action Network San Diego chapter, praised SDPD for providing the numbers and reviewing them. He said he would like to see more break-downs in the data by council district and age.
“I think that we bring about a conversation with these numbers in mental health, which I think has been left aside in black and brown communities when it comes to policing,” Harris said. “Seeing the numbers go up, it definitely is a mental health conversation, the use of force from the police department.”
The SDPD confirms the volume of mental health-related calls is a concern and may be impacting the numbers. A spokesman also pointed out the department responds to more than a million calls for service every year, which puts the use of force instances into perspective as less than one percent of total calls.
McKean said there is a process for raising concerns about officers’ actions, but the goal is for subjects to comply with officers’ verbal commands during any incident.
“When the event is happening, the best thing we can do is we want the person to comply with the officers’ orders,” she said. “There is a time and it’s after the event, after we’ve ensured that the public is safe and that the officers are safe and the situation has been rendered safe. Then there is a time to discuss differences of opinion and discuss our tactics.”
Harris said the problem with that idea is there is no transparent process for raising concerns about San Diego police officers, and outcomes of internal investigations into officers' actions are not made public.
“The problem is there has not been a strong internal affairs department,” Harris said, pointing out the city's citizen’s review board is not considered independent by many in the public. “I think it scares people in society when you don’t have a transparent board.”
“We hope to see these numbers go down and police being held accountable," he added.