An SFPD car sits on the corner of Golden Gate and Larkin in San Francisco, Calif. Friday, April 1, 2016. Jessica Christian/ 2016 S.F. Examiner

SFPD early warning system flags possible bad apples fewer times in 2018

An early warning system designed to prevent police misconduct in San Francisco flagged officers fewer times in 2018 than the previous year amid an overall decline in police using force against the public, according to a new report.

The report, which the San Francisco Police Department is expected to present to the Police Commission on Wednesday, shows officers were flagged 831 times in 2018 as potentially being at risk to commit misconduct, compared to 996 times in 2017 and 877 in 2016.

The decline comes as police report a 4 percent drop in the total number of incidents in which an officer used force from 2017 to 2018, as well as a 14 percent decrease in the times an individual officer used force. Those numbers include the times an officer pointed a firearm at a subject.

The department has undergone reforms since the controversial police shooting of Mario Woods and the revelation of racist text messages being sent between officers in 2015. A year later, the Police Commission banned the carotid hold and shooting at moving vehicles when it approved the department’s first new use-of-force policy since 1995.

The Early Intervention System has been around for more than a decade. The system flags officers based on a range of factors including whether an officer has been involved in a shooting, repeatedly used force or become the subject of complaints filed with the Department of Police Accountability.

Officers who are flagged by the system undergo three rounds of review to determine whether they are at risk of committing problematic behavior and in-need of intervention such as additional training or mentoring.

The number one reason officers are flagged by the system is for reporting a use of force three or more times within a three-month period, according to the report and previous reports on the system. The amount of times officers were flagged for that reason has fallen from 482 in 2016, to 450 in 2017, to 401 in 2018.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, the system flagged 137 officers for review, including 36 officers who were flagged twice and 10 officers who were flagged three times. In total, officers were flagged 193 times.

But the number of officers who actually have interventions through the system is small in comparison. Only five officers are currently undergoing interventions for failing to appear in court or to improve “tactical communication,” while there were three interventions in 2017 and four in 2016, according to the report.

Flagged officers are typically counseled outside the formal intervention system.

In terms of stations, officers at Mission Station were flagged by the system 215 times last year — more than any other station in the department. Bayview Station and Tenderloin Station followed behind with 117 and 99 alerts respectively, according to the report.

Despite the declines, the department still has work to do in terms of disparities in uses of force.

A use-of-force report the department released last month shows 35 percent of uses of force were against black men and 19 percent were against Latino men, despite the most recent census data showing that San Francisco is only 5.3 percent black and 15.3 percent Latino.

The SFPD did not respond to a request for comment.

View the full report here.

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