NAACP San Diego Branch pleased with new SDPD de-escalation policy

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Mayor Kevin Faulconer and police Chief David Nisleit announced Wednesday the city’s adoption of two “stand-alone policies” designed to address community concerns about excessive use of force on the part of the San Diego Police Department and resulting potential for “unnecessary loss of life.”

The new rules require officers — not merely encourage them, as previously was the case — to pursue de-escalation of potentially violent situations by all means possible and to intervene if they witness a colleague engaging in excessive force, Faulconer said during an afternoon briefing at SDPD headquarters.

The regulations, developed along with three local oversight bodies that held emergency meetings on the topic this month, will allow police to “reduce the use of force, further embrace the highest standards of accountability, increase public trust and protect against the unnecessary loss of life,” the mayor said.

The retooled policy was endorsed in recent weeks by the San Diego Citizens Advisory Board on Police and Community Relations, the Community Review Board on Police Practices, and the Human Relations Commission.

The regulations require officers, “when safe and reasonable,” to employ “techniques that can resolve situations, either through lower levels of force or no force at all,” the mayor said.

The promoted tactics include creating a “buffer zone” between a potentially violent subject and officers; calling on such “specialized resources” as the SDPD Psychiatric Emergency Response Team; and establishing an “effective line of communication, considering factors such as mental illness, possible intoxication and potential medical or physical conditions,” according to city officials.

The police chief called the new de-escalation approach “one of the most robust” set of regulations of its kind in the country.

“It really further explains and gives expectations to our officers that (they) must look at all de-escalation (options),” Nisleit said. “At the end of the day, our goal is to solve all incidents without any use of force.”

The duty-to-intervene component of the new rules requires that police “step in if another officer is using unreasonable force and mandates that they report the incident to a supervisor,” Faulconer noted.

“This is a policy that will help make sure that what happened in Minneapolis does not happen here in San Diego,” Faulconer said, referring to the Memorial Day in-custody death of George Floyd, a watershed event that motivated calls for police reform across the country.

Nisleit described the revisions in the department’s philosophy on self- policing for excessive force as a change from an approach that officers “mayor should” intervene in such wrongdoing to a requirement that they “shall.”

“It’s an absolute,” he said. “It’s a mandate, that if an officer sees (another) officer using force that is unreasonable for the resistance that they are trying to overcome, that the (witness) officer must intervene.”

Several members of local law enforcement watchdog and advisory groups praised the new policy.

Samantha Jenkins, a representative of the Community Advisory Board on Police Practices and an executive board member of the NAACP’s San Diego branch, praised Faulconer and Nisleit for “recognizing the current moment in San Diego as an impetus for addressing long-held community concerns about policing practices and policies.”

NAACP San Diego Branch President Francine Maxwell joined Good Morning San Diego to discuss the new de-escalation policies for SDPD.

Categories: Good Evening San Diego, Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News