Recently formed police unit takes closer look at use-of-force incidents
Speaker 1: (00:01)
The use of force by police is under scrutiny nationwide, and is now being examined within the San Diego police department. The force analysis unit is made up of San Diego police officers. Who've been tasked with reviewing each use of force reported by the SDPD. The findings are not intended to discipline individual officers, but rather to examine and possibly change police policies regarding use of force. This is a relatively new unit launched last may and the data is still being collected. Joining me as a reporter David Hernandez, who covers law enforcement, crime, and public safety for the San Diego union Tribune. And David welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:43)
Hey, thanks for having me. The
Speaker 1: (00:45)
SDPD already has an internal affairs unit and that looks at police use of force events. So how does this unit differ from that? Yeah,
Speaker 2: (00:54)
So, uh, for starters, this unit is going to look at all instances in which officers use force. Um, whereas the internal affairs unit, um, looks mostly at, uh, some cases that either, um, led to complaints from the community or that, uh, officials internally decided to, um, investigate. So this force analysis unit we'll look at all of those incidents, uh, regardless of whether they generated a complaint or not. And, um, unlike the, uh, internal affairs unit, they're going to be looking at incidents, uh, with an eye toward any improvements that can be made to use of force training. Maybe they believe that if there are opportunities to improve, improve the way officers are trained, that that could potentially lead to an overall decrease in the number of times that officers use force.
Speaker 1: (01:49)
So that's the goal of the new task force to reduce the use of force incidents overall?
Speaker 2: (01:54)
Yes. So again, they're going to be looking at any ways to improve training and, uh, all of that with the goal of reducing the number of times that officers use force when they interact with the public
Speaker 1: (02:09)
And what exactly constitutes use of force by police definition.
Speaker 2: (02:13)
Right? So it could be any time an officer uses pepper spray, a taser Baton, um, and certainly their handgun, any of the tools that are on their belt. Um, it also includes anytime that an officer points my handgun at an individual, even if they don't fire the weapon. So those are kind of the more commonly used, um, use of forces. There's also, you know, just going hands on with an individual, um, those times are also considered uses of
Speaker 1: (02:44)
No, when it comes to pointing a taser or a weapon at an individual that I believe is called a show of force. What are those? And I, I believe that officers are now required to report those
Speaker 2: (02:56)
To, right. So now officers required to report what the police call a show of force. And that pretty much constitutes anytime an officer has a weapon out, but doesn't use it. Um, and it doesn't just have to be a weapon, but it could include, um, a police dog, for example, if they have a police dog on hand, but don't let the dog loose on a person that is considered a show of force. And, um, like you mentioned that previously wasn't something that, that department tracked, but now officers are required to report those instances and the sports analysis unit we'll look at those incidents of show of force to determine whether they played a role in any way in deescalating a situation,
Speaker 1: (03:43)
Right? Because the police department says that the show of force techniques are designed to deescalate a situation, but that's not always how it's interpreted, is it
Speaker 2: (03:52)
No. So police certainly consider a show of force, a deescalation tactic in certain instances. And they point to cases where an officer might point a taser at someone, and that resolves the situation. And, you know, an officer didn't have to use force, um, some community members, however, push back against that because they believe that, uh, pointing a taser, pointing any kind of weapon at someone could escalate a situation, um, you know, using a police dog, for example, could force an individual to want to defend themselves. So there is a little bit of a pushback in that, in that regard.
Speaker 1: (04:31)
Now, what what's been the reaction of the groups representing police officers, such as the San Diego police officers association, are they in favor of this type of scrutiny?
Speaker 2: (04:42)
The police union is actually, um, pretty receptive to this idea. Um, I was curious, you know, how they would react, but, um, I think that they understand that this is something that benefits the community, but also police officers in that, uh, police officers are less likely to be injured if they are less likely to be engaging in, in forest. So they said that they feel like any way to improve training on use of force is a good thing.
Speaker 1: (05:15)
As I understand it, even before the new task force, the city had already been tracking use of force incidents. How long have police been collecting that information and kind of across the board? What did they find? Yeah,
Speaker 2: (05:28)
So it's been now a year since the police department has, has been tracking a use of force and there were quite a few takeaways. Um, like other studies, um, the data shows that black communities in particular are disproportionately impacted whenever officers use force. Um, they use a greater amount of force on black communities, um, than any other community groups or ethnicities. And, um, some other interesting findings from our review of the police department data was that, you know, the, the most commonly used types of forces were physical strength. So whenever an officer goes hands on with an individual or actually just pointing a gun at an individual was also, uh, the second most common use of force.
Speaker 1: (06:20)
Is there any word when we might get the results of the data collected by the force analysis unit?
Speaker 2: (06:26)
So that's a really interesting question because the department said that it's going to be exploring ways to share the data or their findings. Um, they didn't necessarily commit to sharing all of the information that they uncover. So we're going to be keeping an eye on just how much information they release and community groups, including the police commission, even national policing, uh, advocacy groups have called for departments to be pretty transparent about data like this, and to make it accessible. There's no word currently as to when the department will release information, if any, at all. So we're going to be keeping an eye on that. Okay.
Speaker 1: (07:10)
Okay. Then I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter David Hernandez, David. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (07:17)
Thank you again.
A recently formed police unit is reviewing incidents involving a San Diego police officer using some type of force, with an eye toward improving police training and ultimately lowering use of force incidents by police.
San Diego Union-Tribune reporter David Hernandez joined Midday Edition on Monday to talk about the details surrounding the San Diego Police Department's Force Analysis Unit.
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Though the police department has an internal affairs unit that looks into some cases of police use of force, this newer unit, which is made up of San Diego police officers, will look at all instances of use of force, rather than just select cases.
Use of force can include the use of pepper spray, a stun gun or a baton.
Hernandez said that use of force data that he and his colleagues reviewed showed that "Black communities, in particular, are disproportionally impacted when officers use force."