Chief says suspects will no longer be sitting on the ground


SAN FRANCISCO – Police officers in San Francisco may no longer demand that suspects sit on the ground or sidewalk at a crime scene, the city’s police chief writes in a department memo; regardless of their custodial status—handcuffed or not.

The practice is viewed as “demeaning” to suspects, city police Chief William Scott has determined, according to the Bay Area’s FOX 2.

The change is “aligned with 21st century policing, our department values and our commitment to providing safety with respect to everyone whom our officers encounter,” a police department spokesman told FOX 2.

“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 chief’s memo says.

The chief recommends instead that officers place suspects “secured in a police vehicle” when “sufficient help is on the scene.”

So with the swipe of his pen, Scott has eliminated an age old police practice of putting potential hostile suspects in a position of disadvantage during field investigations. Street cops universally agree that a career criminal—among others—should be seated on the ground with legs crossed during an investigatory detention.

Paramount in this thinking is to remove the temptation for the detained individual to run. This is a basic officer safety protocol that has just been removed. The unintended consequence will likely be more foot pursuits, thus increased officer injuries.

With the change in policy, perhaps the police unit trunks in San Francisco will be equipped with lawn chairs?

Chief says suspects will no longer be sitting on the ground

In times of “exceptional circumstances,” such as when a suspect is resisting arrest, officers may have no choice but to take a suspect to the ground, the chief acknowledges.

Whenever that happens, however, the chief wants to know about it, reported Fox News.

“Officer shall document, in an incident report, anytime it is necessary to seat an individual on the ground,” the chief writes.

The memo does not mention any specific incidents as having prompted the policy statement.

Scott became the city’s police chief in January 2017 after serving 27 years in the Los Angeles Police Department, LET previously reported.

Earlier this month, a study by the University of California at Berkeley credited an increase in foot patrols by San Francisco police with helping to reduce crime in the city.


The city reassigned about 3.5 percent of its officers to foot patrols in summer 2017, and saw drops in assaults, larceny and vehicle thefts, the study said, according to the Daily Californian.

But like most police departments, they have also seen their share of turmoil. Last week the family of a 21-year-old man—who was killed during a 2016 OIS—filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

The suit alleges that police overreacted to a situation at a barbershop instead of using de-escalation tactics being encouraged since 2016, the report said.

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