Saturday, June 04, 2016

SAPD use of force rate increasing

Just as the Texas Lege recognized last session that there needed to be greater transparency surrounding police-involved shootings, use of force reports have long been a murky backwater of seldom-disclosed information that the public seldom sees. In the SA Express News, John Tedesco had a lengthy, anecdote-filled feature on May 28 titled, "Analysis: SAPD officers use force at higher rates against minorities" in which he delved into those reports in SA in great detail Here are some statistical highlights:
From 2010 to 2015, police arrested more than 58,150 Anglo suspects and used force against them 1,175 times. That’s a rate of 20.2 incidents per 1,000 arrests.

For minorities, the rates of force nearly doubled over the same five years.

Police arrested 89,700 Hispanic suspects and used force against them 3,217 times — a rate of 35.9 incidents per 1,000 arrests.

Police arrested 23,045 African-American suspects and used force against them 822 times — a rate of 35.7 incidents per 1,000 arrests.
Overall, use of force increased dramatically at SAPD since 2010. "In raw numbers, incidents of force have increased by nearly 75 percent since 2010, from 735 cases that year to 1,281 in 2015." As demonstrated above, most of that increase involved black or Hispanic suspects. However, according to the department, "the primary reason for that increase ... is that the SAPD broadened the definition of force to include takedown maneuvers, which drastically increased the number of reports." Regrettably, the data was not broken out so that one could judge how much of the increase resulted from the data-definition change. ("Trust us, we're the government.)

Tedesco does inform us that, "The San Antonio Police Department has compiled thousands of “use of force” reports in a database that’s open to the public." I'll post a link if and when I find one, but an excerpt is included in the story. He gave a brief history how those reports became public.
SAPD began requiring officers to fill out “use-of-force” reports in 1998 under the leadership of then-Chief Al Philippus, but the city refused to release the information to the public.

The Express-News sued the city to obtain the records, arguing they fell under the Texas Public Information Act. During a legal battle that lasted years, the city lost at the trial and appellate court levels, and finally released the records in 2002 after the Texas Supreme Court declined to consider the case.

It was the first time the public had access to a repository of every force incident documented at the SAPD. But the reports only offer one side of the story — the Police Department’s.

“When you're using official records to do this, you're kind of at the mercy of how the Police Department codes it,” Terrill said. “They're coding it from an interested-party perspective, right?”

After receiving an updated copy of the database, the Express-News found many of the reports offer only scant or contradictory details about what exactly happened, making it difficult to compare the level of resistance of the suspect to the level of force used by the officer.
Chief William Mcmanus defended his officers against allegations of racial bias, but seemed IMO to protest a bit too much.
“The race or ethnicity of a suspect is not, nor has it ever been, a factor in determining whether to use force or the level of force used,” McManus said in a statement released Friday. “Any suggestion that our highly trained officers are choosing to use force based on any reason other than to protect themselves or others is false and disrespectful to our men and women in uniform.”
Since we know for a fact that some of his "highly trained officers" have chosen to use force for reasons "other than to protect themselves or others," I call BS on that one. It's one thing to push back on the racial angle, but quite another to basically pre-clear every officer in every use of force incident without respect to the details. That's statement is "false" and "disrespectful" to the public whom he's treating in this story like gullible chumps.

For those interested, here's SAPD's use of force policy. And while we're on the topic, here are a few other recent police accountability stories which merit Grits readers' attention:


Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see how many of those excessive force cases were committed by officers that ended up being arrested for misconduct on duty and violence off duty.

Anonymous said...

Was not McManus given a "no confidence" vote by the very same "highly trained" officers? But that and his brief foray into the private sector, followed by his rapid return to SAPD is another story for another place.

Anonymous said...

The "use of force" definition varies greatly from agency to agency. Some agencies in my county consider discharging a service weapon, Taser, or baton as use of force. Others consider the use of handcuffs as use of force. It's one thing for an agency to keep its own records to track various levels of use of force, but does the state have its own definition for the purpose of data tracking?

Anonymous said...

Too much of police training today focuses on the use of force rather than training to use verbal skills to resolve a situation. It's very obvious that most communities prefer that peace officers resolve situations peacefully but instead, their training has taught them to escalate most situations with force. Until we change their training, we can only expect the use of (deadly) force numbers to continue to rise.