In previous years, San Luis Obispo police officers used force about 50 times a year. This year, police reduced their use of force by about half, according to Police Chief Deanna Cantrell.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police described use of force as the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject,” however there is no universal definition.
Seventy-four percent of force is used on people under the influence of drugs and alcohol, people who have poor mental health or who are homeless, Cantrell said.
The police department engaged in multiple programs to help officers respond to people experiencing poor mental health or homelessness.
Three years ago, the police department joined the One Mind Campaign in order to provide all officers Crisis Intervention Training – a 30 hour training to teach officers how to communicate with people experiencing a mental health crisis without using force, Cantrell said.
The police department also enrolled in Principal Policing and Legitimacy Training, which emphasized that officers are the “keepers of public safety,” Cantrell said.
“We exist to reduce harm in our community and provide the service of public safety to a community,” Cantrell said.
The program instructed officers to treat people with voice, respect, neutrality and trustworthiness, according to Cantrell.
“If we treat people with those four tenants, typically people will be more satisfied with us and we can develop better trust, and we’ll use less force,” Cantrell said.
Later this year, Cantrell said the police department will host a day of mindfulness, where they will practice meditation, yoga and taking care of their mental well being.
Officers will learn how to control their breathing, and find that when they control their breathing, they can think more clearly and respond appropriately to stressful situations, according to Cantrell.
Additionally, the police department increased homeless outreach efforts.
In September 2018, the police department hired social worker John Klevins to work with their Community Action Team (CAT) to help people who are homeless and mentally ill in San Luis Obispo.
From July 2019 to now, Klevins and the CAT contacted 290 individuals in need of services, and helped 99 of them to engage in behavioral health programs. Additionally, 82 of these individuals accepted help in finding housing, according to Cantrell.
In 2019, 22 percent of all service calls were related to homelessness, which is the first decrease since 2012, according to the crime report.
“When we contact less homeless folks that are chronically ill, and have been homeless for longer than a year and suffer from mental health issues and drugs and alcohol and those types of things, there’s less chance we’re going to have to use force,” Cantrell said.
In 2019, no homicides were committed in San Luis Obispo, and theft decreased by 7 percent.
Burglary decreased by 37 percent in 2019, according to the crime report. This decrease followed the “lock it or lose it” campaign and social media reporting, according to Amoroso.
Aggravated assault – which is the act of physically harming someone – increased by 11 percent in 2019. Most aggravated assault cases were domestic fights – such as between family members– or bar fights, according to Captain Brian Amoroso.