Recently, there have been decisions by grand juries, convened by the District Attorney’s Office, charging law enforcement members when using force to effect arrests.
Uses of force to protect public safety and prevent harm to others are responses based on the actions of the arrestee or those in crisis. Our public safety agencies are trained in de-escalation techniques and practices as a part of our use of force continuum. It is not just a simple progression, but constantly, sometimes instantaneously, determining appropriate responses to the behavior and actions of those who pose a threat to themselves or others.
As much as we prepare for crisis situations, public safety officers are human beings who have human reactions. We walk a tightrope in determining whether a use of force is appropriate, or excessive, in response to each situation.
I strongly believe in accountability for one’s actions. As the Sheriff of San Francisco, I am entrusted by the people to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the actions of all members of the Sheriff’s Office in the performance of their duties safeguarding others.
As members of law enforcement, we are held to a higher standard in our decision making and actions. I support and stand by all members of the Sheriff’s Office whose actions reflect their training, experience, and the standards of our profession.
Accountability also applies to the behaviors of those who pose a threat to themselves, others, or public safety. There needs to be a balance in this accountability when actions are assaultive and injurious to peace officers, or are otherwise unlawfully obstructing performance of public safety duties.
Whether in response to a call for service, crime in progress, or person in crisis, law enforcement professionals are placed in situations that may require a use of force. The balance is already tipped as we react and respond to the actions of others. It becomes very difficult to maintain public order and safety if the balance is absent.
I am confident in our judicial system and the due process allowed to the officers recently charged. Guardians of the public trust are afforded considerations and understanding in court not afforded to them in the court of public opinion.
Just as we look to the courts to ensure all are innocent until proven guilty, let all of us as a community ensure we do not create an imbalance that implies peace officers are guilty until proven innocent.