San Francisco's New 'Time and Distance' Policing Strategy Works: Armed Standoff Ends Peacefully
September 26, 2016
Associated Press & KGO TV & The San Francisco Examiner
A standoff with an armed and suicidal man at San Francisco's Civic Center has ended after the man surrendered peacefully. Police Officer Carlos Manfredi said the man gave up after six hours of negotiations that prompted authorities to evacuate Civic Center and a nearby public square. After several recent police shootings raised a public outcry, the SFPD instituted a new response policy. Instead of relying on force, weapons and intimidation, the new "Time and Distance" policy stresses patience.
An armed man in his 40s, involved in a standoff in the Civic Center Plaza, peacefully surrendered to San Francisco police officers. No shots were fired, thanks to the SFPD's new "Time and Distance" policy. (San Francisco Police Department photo.)
Police Standoff Ends Peacefully in San Francisco
Associated Press & NewsCenter1 TV
SAN FRANCISCO (September 24, 2016) – A standoff with an armed and suicidal man at San Francisco's Civic Center has ended after the man surrendered peacefully.
Police Officer Carlos Manfredi said the man gave up Saturday after six hours of negotiations that prompted authorities to evacuate Civic Center and a nearby public square. Manfredi tweeted a photo of the handgun stuffed in a belt that negotiators said the man was wearing.
The standoff began after the man called 911 to say he was going to harm himself and any officer who came close to him.
Authorities emptied the area of pedestrians and motorists and issued a temporary flight restriction above the City Hall area. Manfredi said noise from news helicopters was interfering with negotiations and creating a hostile situation with the man.
Suspect in Civic Center Standoff Surrenders to Police
Cornell Barnard / KGO TV
SAN FRANCISCO (September 24, 2016) -- San Francisco police have reported the gunman involved in an hours-long standoff in the Civic Center Plaza has surrendered to police. The incident was first reported by San Francisco Fire Department officials on Twitter around 12:25 p.m.
Police and fire officials initially evacuated the plaza and asked people to avoid the area. Police say the armed man called police just before noon and was threatening to use it. "This person has a semi-automatic handgun. He has threatened to use the gun on officers and on himself," said San Francisco police officer Carlos Manfredi.
SWAT Team units and police negotiators are on scene trying to convince the man to surrender. "Right now our negotiators are trying to establish a dialogue with man find out what's going on and try to end this peacefully," Manfredi said.
The armed man has been talking to police. "He's using words that he may want to end his life or take out other people and we don't want that to happen," Manfredi said.
Hundreds of people live inside the evacuation zone, not knowing when they might be allowed to go home. Police say they are in no hurry to end the standoff and it could continue for several hours.
SFPD's Use-of-force Policy Reforms
Unanimously Passed by Police Commission
Jonah Owen Lamb / The San Francisco Examiner
(June 22, 2016) -- A compromise was tentatively reached Wednesday between San Francisco's police union and police watchdogs over the details of new rules governing officers' use of force.
That compromise came as dueling versions of the rules that will govern how and when police use force in San Francisco went before The City's Police Commission on Wednesday night for a final unanimous vote. "A lot of what we're fighting over are very, very particular," said Commissioner Petra DeJesus. "I think we need to take a stand for strong language."
While the union agreed in theory with the majority of the compromise, it did not agree to promise to give up its rights in negotiation. "We cannot make that agreement here and now," said Union President Martin Halloran.
In response, commission President Suzy Loftus said if the union holds the process hostage then temporary department bulletins could enforce rules such as making sure officers "shall" use de-escalation techniques.
"We'll use any means that we have," said Loftus.
Still, the commission moved forward on each point of disagreement before finally passing the reforms, which included many points the union disagreed upon. Specifically, the commission passed rules barring the use of carotid restraints, barring the shooting at vehicles unless there is an imminent threat other than the vehicle, and stripping stun guns from the policy.
Their position also included that officers shall reassess the situation after each discharge.
The department has been under continued pressure after a number of recent police shootings, one of which prompted the resignation of former Chief Greg Suhr -- and has not changed its use-of-force policy for more than two decades.
The final version will be the guiding principle around force for the department's more than 2,000 officers. "The people of San Francisco have demanded that we make meaningful change," said Loftus about the importance of the reforms.
Following the killing of Mario Woods Dec. 5, 2015, Mayor Ed Lee directed the department to draw up new rules that make sure fewer people die at the hands of police.
Since then, the department, community groups, the Police Commission and the police union have met a number of times to craft a new use-of-force policy. At its core that policy's aim has been to reduce deadly encounters with police by enshrining de-escalation techniques and guidelines centered on the sanctity of life.
Three main proposed versions of the policy put before the commission seek to define what kinds of force can be used and in what circumstances. They also attempt to define use of force as well as de-escalation and when it should be used.
The policies specifically speak to when firearms, batons and other weapons can be used and when they should not be an option, as well as the responsibility of supervisors and fellow officers during such an incidents.
A packed Police Commission included many speakers who critiqued the police union and some of its proposed changes to the policy.
"This document [negotiated version] virtually strips" the strength out of the other two versions, said one speaker.
Up until Tuesday, there were several main versions of the use-of-force policy. Those policies have been presented at public hearings held by the Police Commission so the public can give their input. But the latest version handed over to commissioners by the San Francisco Police Officers Association has had no public review.
Still, the new version was the result of negotiations between community groups, watchdogs and the POA.
While similar in many ways to the other versions, the negotiated version still had a number of additional sticking points. Those points, which were mostly passed, also supported including the language about building rapport and creating time and distance. The commission also included language about reporting use-of-force incidents and punishments for failing to do so.
All those differences were passed by the commission.
Aside from the 20 percent of the proposed document not yet agreed upon, the union's position has differed in the past on a number of issues. The POA, for instance, wanted to change "sanctity" of life to "reverence," since, they argue, that sanctity is a religious phrase and not appropriate.
Community groups who have opposed many of the POA's positions say it may sound simply as if they have issues with wording, but that will make all the difference.
"People will die if the POA has its way and you approve this restraint," said a woman speaker about the union's position on carotid holds.
Alan Schlosser with the ACLU of Northern California said that there are verbiage changes made by the union it has no legal say over. For instance, the use of "minimal force" versus "reasonable force," which is favored by the union, should not be subject to negotiations, he said. "If this is your policy, fight for it," he said.
Wednesday's policy must go through a labor negotiation with the POA, which in the past has altered policies during that process.
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