The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office recently released its use-of-force statistics for its patrol and custody operations branches, which shows an overall decline over the past three years.
The data shows that the percentage of arrests that resulted in use of force have dropped from 1.10% in 2017 to 0.98% in 2019. In 2017, custody deputies reported 56 instances of use of force, while law enforcement deputies reported 87. Those numbers in 2019 were 63 and 71, respectively.
Two officer-involved shootings were reported in 2017 and 2018, for a total of four, while one OIS was reported in 2019, according to the data.
A total of 39 use-of-force incidents resulted in deputies being injured in 2019, slightly up from 2018 and 2017, in which there were 23 and 35 incidents, respectively. The use of tasers has also declined in recent years. After 23 incidents involving tasers or electronic weapons were reported in 2017, those figures dropped to 21 incidents in 2018 and 12 incidents in 2019.
Suspects suffered minor injuries in 86 altercations with the Sheriff’s Office in 2017. Over the past two years, those numbers have dropped to 75 in 2018 and 78 in 2019.
Three suspects suffered “significant” injuries during altercations in 2017, with only one suspect reporting significant injuries in each of the past two years.
“The use of force by law enforcement deputies has declined for the past three years, as have Level 3 uses of force, which is defined as any discharge of a firearm by either a deputy or suspect, or use of force which results in serious bodily injury,” Sheriff Bill Brown said in a statement.
“I believe this is a direct result of our agency-wide Crisis Intervention Training that has equipped our deputies, custody deputies and dispatchers with a better understanding of how to interact with people who are mentally ill and/or under the influence of substances,” Sheriff Brown said. “It is also a product of integrating de-escalation techniques and tactics into our practical arrest and control, less-lethal weaponry and firearms training.”
The decline in overall use of force incidents is attributed to the development of the Sheriff’s Office collaboration with the county Behavioral Wellness Department known as the co-response teams. These teams consist of a specially trained deputy and a mental health professional from the Behavioral Wellness Department.
During these responses, a significant number of mentally ill patients who suffer from substance or homelessness issues are diverted from jail and into community-based treatment.
“Underpinning all of these factors is the long-standing and on-going expectation that the members of the Sheriff’s Office treat all people we serve with respect, courtesy, professionalism and fairness,” Sheriff Brown said.
Overall, the total number of arrests has dropped from as many as 11,077 in 2010 to 7,222 in 2019.
The three-year average for law enforcement operations that included use of force were also broken down by sex and race. Of the 236 instances, 36 involved females and 200 involved males. Further, 54% involved a white person, 36% involved a Hispanic person, and 7% involved someone who is black. Three percent of incidents involved a different race.
For the custody operations involving use of force, the three-year average included 171 total incidents. Of those, 14 involved a female and 157 involved a male. The race breakdowns are as follows: 62% Hispanic; 32% white, and 5% black. One percent of incidents involved a different race.