In a significant policy change, San Francisco police officers should only seat suspects or other detained individuals on the ground “as a last resort,” according to a memo sent out to the department by Chief William Scott.
“Seating any handcuffed or unhandcuffed detained subject on the ground or sidewalk during an encounter should be avoided,” wrote Scott in the memo, obtained by journalist Heather Holmes at KTVU.
Unnamed sources told Homes that it’s considered “demeaning” to make people sit on the ground.
“In order to carry out duties respectfully and professionally, sitting a subject on the ground or sidewalk should be done only as a last resort and only when necessary,” the memo states.
However, the local police union, San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) told Holmes that the new policy would put both officers and members of the public at greater risk of harm.
Earlier this year, the union said attacks on officers have been on the rise.
“Attacks on SFPD officers are dramatically on the rise in the past few months. Our members have been shot, shot at, run over, stabbed, and assaulted,” wrote Martin Halloran, president of SFPOA, in a statement in April.
SF Police can no longer tell suspects to 'sit on the ground' because it's "demeaning." I've learned that San Francisco…
The new department policy would apply to suspects both with or without handcuffs. However, the memo mentions that officers may still need to take an individual to the ground in “exceptional circumstances,” for example in order to subdue someone who’s resisting arrest.
“The policy, which is still in draft form, is aligned with 21st century policing, our department, values and our commitment to providing safety with respect to everyone whom our officers encounter,” Chief Scott’s communications director, David Stevenson, told Holmes.
Whenever a police officer finds it necessary to have a suspect sit on the ground, they will be required to write an incident report to document the encounter, according to the memo. If enough officers are on scene, “the subject shall be taken off the ground and secured in a police vehicle,” states the memo.
No specific events were listed as prompting the policy change.
Scott has served as San Francisco’s police chief since January 2017. Previously, he spent 27 years in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), where he was promoted to deputy chief of LAPD’s South Bureau.
He became chief after San Francisco was without a permanent police chief for more than six months. Former Chief Greg Suhr retired in May 2016 at the request of the city’s mayor following a controversial officer-involved shooting of a woman.
In November, the SFPOA criticized Scott for officer promotions they labeled “unfair and illegal” and that had a “lack of transparency,” according to ABC7 News. They accused Scott of picking certain candidates over others for reasons other than their civil service exams results.
SF Police Union sends blistering letter to Chief, blasting promotions process. pic.twitter.com/83PyMVxGx8
— Vic Lee (@vicleeabc7) November 29, 2018
The SFPOA sent a letter with officers’ complaints to Chief William Scott a few weeks after a list of promotions was released.
“They are asking the department to be transparent with the promotional process and they don’t feel that’s happening right now,” said Tony Montoya of the SFPOA to ABC7 News.