McAllister/Jones Standoff Demonstrates SFPD Revised Use of Force Policy Saves Lives

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Crime, Opinion

Tagged: ,

Published on July 10, 2016 with No Comments

A man lay prostrate on the corner of Jones and McAllister streets, 7/9/16, during a tense 3 hour standoff with SFPD. Photo via SF Examiner.

An alleged armed man lay prostrate on the corner of Jones and McAllister streets, 7/9/16, during a tense 3-hour standoff with SFPD. Photo via SF Examiner.

By Ralph E. Stone

July 10, 2016

On July 6, I was on the 5-Fulton bus going home. The bus pulled into the bus stop at Jones and McAllister Streets here in San Francisco, when we saw a shirtless man facing two police officers with their guns drawn. The bus quickly moved on. I didn’t know the conclusion of the incident until it was reported in the news later that day.

The new use-of-force policies are given as part of the reason why no one was killed or injured in this incident.  The revised use-of-force policies, among other things, require a police officer to use de-escalation techniques to decrease the likelihood of the need to use force.  The officer is supposed to attempt to understand the reasons why a person may be non-compliant or resisting arrest.  That is, the person may not understand the situation because of a medical condition; mental, physical, or hearing impairment; language barrier; drug interaction; or emotional crisis, and have no criminal intent as opposed to the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later.

Under the new leadership of SFPD Police Chief Toney Chaplin, I commend the police officers for their handling of the incident without a death or injury.

SFPD’s revised use-of-force policies also require of officers, when possible, “to balance the severity of the offense committed and the level of resistance based on the totality of the circumstances known to or perceived by the officer at the time,” and to “use the lowest level of force necessary when encountering a subject who is armed with a weapon other than a firearm.”  In the Jones and McAllister incident, the subject had a firearm, but the police deployed bean bag rounds and flash bangs in a successful attempt to resolve the standoff.  The police did not have to use their firearms.  In the Mario Woods incident, Woods was armed with a knife and while the police did not appear to be in danger, they fired their weapons anyway.

The use-of-force polices seem commonsensical.  I cannot believe these or similar policies are not already taught at the SFPD Academy or as part of ongoing officer training. In other words, were the shootings of Alex NietoAmilcar Perez-LopezLuis GongoraJessica Williams, and Mario Woods in accordance with the way San Francisco police were trained before the current use-of-force policies? I don’t believe that.

The difference between the incident at Jones and McAllister streets and past shooting incidents is the public outrage over past police shootings and the under-pressure resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr.  While the revised use-of-force policies are welcome, the real causes of the past conduct by some officers was a lack of accountability and a lack of strong leadership from the police chief on down to the sergeants.

The Mission of the San Francisco Police Department follows:

“We, the members of the San Francisco Police Department, are committed to excellence in law enforcement and are dedicated to the people, traditions and diversity of our City. In order to protect life and property, prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime, we will provide service with understanding, response with compassion, performance with integrity and law enforcement with vision.”

Hopefully, the San Francisco Police Department has turned the corner in fulfilling its mission.  At least their handling of the Jones and McAllister incident is a promising new beginning.

Ralph E. Stone

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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