Policy Recommendation -- 06.23.03

Subject:  Amending the Critical Incident Criteria to Include Incidents Involving Significant Bystander Response and Police Action

Recommendation:  The Office of Citizen Complaints recommends that the San Francisco Police Department:

1.) Amend Department General Order 8.01 (Critical Incident Evaluation and Notification) to include incidents that involve significant bystander and/or community response and police action but may not rise to the level of  “a riot, insurrection or potentially violent demonstration” as currently required under 8.01.

2.) Amend Department General Order 8.01 to include designating specific officers the responsibility of answering questions posed by bystanders, providing information concerning the necessity and lawfulness of the police action and assisting in de-escalating hostility between bystanders and the police.  

3.) Augment Policy Academy and roll call training to conform to this change in policy. =

Case Background:

Four juveniles who were sitting in a car listening to music in the early morning hours of Martin Luther King Jr. Day were detained at gunpoint, removed from their car and pat-searched.  Officers were responding to a call that two African-American males with hoods over their faces were removing guns from a car.  Parents (complainants) and other concerned neighbors came out to the scene and protested the treatment of the juveniles, some of whom were female and subjected to pat-searches by male officers.  They also requested information about the legality of the police action.  Complainants and witnesses stated that an officer was expressly asked for an explanation of the police action, did not furnish one, but instead replied with a racially derogatory comment.  A juvenile complainant and adult were forcibly arrested, resulting in visible injuries to the juvenile complainant.

Department General Order 8.01 establishes policies and procedures for evaluation by and notification of command personnel in critical incidents.  This order mandates that the District Captain (or an alternative designee) immediately respond to the scene of a critical incident, assume command, evaluate the situation and make appropriate notifications.  Examples of critical incidents include a hostage/barricaded suspect, a citizen shot by an officer, a riot, insurrection or potentially violent demonstration, and an officer arrested on or off duty.

While the instant case did not rise to the level of a “riot, insurrection or potentially violent demonstration,” the nature of the police action and the community response were such that the expertise and presence of command staff normally drawn upon during a critical incident would have significantly enhanced the communication between law enforcement and members of the community.  Additionally, by designating this case and similar situations as a critical incident, the Department would further its community policing goals by allocating the resources, strategic planning, advanced officer training and state-of-the-art policing generally dedicated to critical incidents.  The OCC further recommends that an essential aspect of a critical incident response include designating specific officers to answer questions posed by bystanders, provide information concerning about the police action, and assist in de-escalating hostility between community members and the police.

Investigated by: David Aulet
Prepared by: SAMARA MARION, Senior Attorney
Approved by: KEVIN ALLEN, Director
Date: June 23, 2003