San Francisco police officers, who were required in the aftermath of a disputed shooting in the Bayview neighborhood to document every time they point their guns, reported doing so 3,130 times in the first 15 months, or about seven times a day, records show.
The gun-pointings made up nearly 70 percent of all incidents of force between January 2016 and the end of March, dwarfing such actions as restraining or punching a suspect or using a baton. They are stirring debate in a city where the police force is in the midst of reforms and under pressure to explain racial disparities in enforcement, SFGate.com reports.
Police officials say officers are following California law and department policy, which states they may point a firearm when they “believe it may be necessary for the safety of others or for (their) own safety.”
In nearly half of those cases, the person at whom the officer pointed a gun was African American, though black people make up less than 6 percent of the city’s population. Police say the racial breakdown for uses of force has been consistent with arrest rates in the city.
Critics and some law enforcement experts, though, are raising alarm at the initial numbers.
“The statistics show that police go for their guns, and that’s a big problem, and it’s a problem that results in the loss of life,” said San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin. “This is not just one officer going rogue. These statistics show that their first instinct is to grab their gun, when that should be the last resort.”