Press Release

San Francisco Police Commission adopts improved Use of Force policy

The San Francisco Police Commission adopts DPA’s recommendations for an improved Use of Force policy in the wake of George Floyd and related Black Lives Matter protests.
January 14, 2022
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I am thrilled that after 18 months of negotiation and advocacy, the Police Commission adopted SFPD’s new use of force policy. These revisions improve police officer accountability and help ensure that encounters with SFPD officers conclude as safely as possible. Importantly, the policy now requires SFPD to safeguard the human dignity of arrestees and detainees by banning officers from ordering them to sit or lie prone on the ground in most circumstances - an important change prompted by the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests that occurred in 2020. 
Executive Director Paul Henderson, Department of Police Accountability

On January 12, 2021, the San Francisco Police Commission adopted revisions to the use of force policy set forth in San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) General Order 5.01. Over the past 18 months, DPA collaborated with SFPD and the Police Commission to align SFPD’s use of force policy with recent amendments to California Penal Code § 835a, California’s use of force statute, and to incorporate additional policy changes to safeguard the public in the wake of the George Floyd murder and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests.

Below is an overview of the key policy changes. 

Broadens Categories of Reportable Uses of Force 

  • Any control hold use in an attempt overcome resistance is now a reportable use of force. Use of physical controls in any attempt to overcome resistance are reportable uses of force regardless of injury or complaint of pain. 
  • The “low ready” pointing of a firearm is now a reportable use of force. The intentional pointing of a firearm at a person including “low ready” is now a reportable use of force.

New Documentation and Review Requirements for Drawing and Exhibiting a Firearm

  • Drawing or exhibiting a firearm requires documentation and supervisorial review. Officers are required to document in an incident report the justification for drawing or exhibiting a firearm, even if they did not point the firearm a person. When a firearm is drawn or exhibited, supervisors are required to review the officers BWC and determine if the officer(s) actions were in policy, or pending an investigation, by the end of watch. In the previous Use of Force policy, officers were not required to document the mere drawing or exhibiting a firearm nor was the drawing/exhibited subject to immediate supervisorial review. 

Bans Use of Physical Control to Head, Neck, and Throat in the Wake of George Floyd 

  • Officers are now prohibited from applying pressure to a person’s head, neck, or throat while making an arrest, overcoming resistance, or preventing an escape absent exigent circumstances

Limits Prone Detentions and Arrests in the Wake of George Floyd Protests

  • To safeguard dignity, officers now must avoid requiring detainees and arrestees to sit or lay in a prone position absent exigent circumstances. 

Amendments make DGO 5.01 consistent with California Penal Code § 835a

  • Changed the definition of “Reasonable Force” to comply with PC §835a(a)(4)
  • Changed definition of “Deadly Force” to comply with PC § 835a(e)(1).
  • Added definition of “Imminent Threat of Death or Serious Bodily Injury” to comply with PC §835a(e)(2) and deleted the definition of, and references to, an “immediate threat.”

DPA Executive Director Paul D. Henderson said, “I am thrilled that after 18 months of negotiation and advocacy, the Police Commission adopted SFPD’s new use of force policy. These revisions improve police officer accountability and help ensure that encounters with SFPD officers conclude as safely as possible. Importantly, the policy now requires SFPD to safeguard the human dignity of arrestees and detainees by banning officers from ordering them to sit or lie prone on the ground in most circumstances - an important change prompted by the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests that occurred in 2020.

The new use of force policy will be implemented in 90 days to allow for SFPD training to occur.

For questions, please contact: Janelle Caywood, Policy Director Phone: 415-241-7762 | Email: Janelle.caywood@sfgov.org

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