The police department’s Crisis Intervention Team released 2018 figures showing mental health calls result in use of force in less than 0.2 % of all incidents, part of a broader reduction in use of force the department is striving for.

Thursday afternoon, several members of the SFPD are going to reward themselves with a little luncheon at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center out by Stern Grove called the Crisis Intervention Awards ceremony, a welcome break from their recent spate of terrible publicity over the raid of a journalist’s home and the handling of Jeff Adachi’s death report. And they will have some good news to celebrate. Mission Local reports that the department has numbers showing a dramatic reduction in use of force when responding to mental health calls, according to a report presented to the Police Commission Wednesday night.

If you’re a law-enforcement nerd, you can watch the roughly 40-minute presentation from the department’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), an entity dating back to 2001. The data showed that in more than 50,000 mental health calls placed to the SFPD, meaning incidents with mentally disturbed people or individuals attempting suicide, officers only used force 113 times ⁠— or in about 0.2% of all instances.

Image: SF Police Commission via SFGov TV

And the CIT data is pretty detailed with regards to exactly what kind of force was used. As seen above, the most common classification is Physical Control. “That means the officer put their hands on the subject,” said SFPD Lt. Mario Molina. “Either to contain them, or calm them down, or to handcuff them, and the person later on complained of pain.” Looking at all 113 cases, the subject was physically injured 58 times.

That may sound brutal, but its steady improvement over previous years. The department chalks this up to a CIT training program, which entails 40 hours of coursework with clinicians, doctors, and Department of Public Health civilian types. The training covers de-escalation and distance-keeping strategies. “The fact that you’ve had the training does not mean you’re not going to use force for the rest of your career,”  Lt. Molina added.

These are of course totally self-reported numbers, but they’re improvements on previous self-reported numbers, so you figure the progress is real. The data gave very granular details on race of the subject, the race of the officer, and all manner of other statistical recording. It should be noted that this is SFPD data, and does not cover sheriff’s officers. But given the, erm, uniqueness of mental health issues on the streets of San Francisco, it's encouraging to see police resorting to less violence.

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