SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The San Francisco Police Department released new data about how its officers use force against unsheltered people in the city.

The data was released in response to an article published by the San Francisco Standard Thursday that shone a glaring spotlight on who SFPD officers most frequently use force against.

The Standard wrote, “Over a recent five-year period, nearly a third of all people whom San Francisco police used force against had something in common. (They) were experiencing homelessness.” The Standard obtained the use-of-force data first through filing a public records request.

SFPD fired back with a lengthy explanation behind the data.

The police department wrote, “In response to a report in the SF Standard … the SFPD is setting the record straight. SFPD officers received 174,176 homeless-related calls from dispatchers between 2017 and 2022. Only 43 of those cases resulted in a use of force after the individual either assaulted or resisted police or committed another crime.”

Forty-two of the use-of-force cases involved officers using a “physical control hold,” according to SFPD. In one case, an officer used OC spray, commonly known as pepper spray.

San Francisco has a large population of people experiencing homelessness that is estimated to be around 8,000, according city data. The Standard wrote that its in-depth analysis “reveals that San Francisco police disproportionately used force against homeless people.”

For homeless-related calls for service, officers used force less than 3 times out of every 10,000 calls, or .024%, data shows.

“In the vast majority of cases in which SFPD officers used force, officers were responding to
crimes in progress, often violent crimes. SFPD officers do not factor in a suspect’s housing
status – nor should they – when responding to crimes in progress,” SFPD wrote.

When force was used against unsheltered residents, the cases were initially called into 911 dispatchers as:

  • Burglary (#1 most common call for service)
  • Vehicle theft (#2)
  • Suspicious person (#3)
  • Trespasser (#4)
  • Person with a gun (#5)
  • Assault with a deadly weapon (#6)
  • Auto Boost (#7)
  • Assault and battery (#8)
  • Person with a knife (#9)
  • Vandalism (#10)
  • Warrant arrest (#11)
  • Robbery (#12)
  • Homicide (#13)

The SFPD has closely collaborated with city leaders to find and deploy alternative responses to 911 calls that involve homeless people. The city has crisis response street team responders that are sent to some scenes instead of uniformed police officers.

“Those responders, however, are not trained or certified to respond to violent crimes, burglaries
and other crimes in progress. The SFPD will continue responding to these types of calls in the
future. What’s more, a person’s housing status is often difficult to measure and is often not apparent. The state and federal government do not ask law enforcement jurisdictions to track suspects’ housing status,” the police department wrote.

A person who is arrested may be classified in SFPD records as “homeless” if they refuse to provide a home address, are staying with friends, or other factors, according to SFPD.

SFPD says it is “committed to delivering safety with respect for all in our mission to build trust and transparency with all the communities we serve. The department has been a leader in 21st Century Policing, including numerous use-of-force reforms that have since become state law. The SFPD will continue to police with dignity and respect and our officers will continue to use force when necessary and appropriate to keep the public safe.”