Emily Green, SFGate, April 29, 2015
African Americans in San Francisco are cited for resisting arrest at a rate eight times greater than whites even when serious crimes are not involved, according to statistics drawn from court records.
From January 2010 to April 24 of this year, law enforcement officers cited suspects with resisting arrest 9,633 times in cases where the suspect was not charged with a felony. African Americans accounted for 45 percent of those cited, even though they make up just 6 percent of the city’s population.
Whites, who make up roughly half of San Francisco’s population, made up 39 percent of those cited for resisting arrest. Asian Americans, who make up roughly a third of the population, accounted for just 3 percent of those cited for resisting arrest. Latinos are not broken out as a separate demographic and instead are generally included among whites.
Critics say resisting-arrest charges can be used to justify excessive police force by placing blame on the suspect. They can also elevate routine interactions from the mundane to the criminal. Suspects can be convicted of resisting arrest, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, even when the underlying offense is minor or nonexistent.
“Any person who has contact with the police should cooperate, regardless if they believe they are in the right or not,” [Police Department spokesman Officer Albie] Esparza wrote in an e-mail. “When anyone does not listen to order and resist police efforts . . . those individuals will be held accountable for their actions regardless of age, race, creed, religion, gender, etc.
“SFPD has a very diverse police force which reflects every walk of life of the citizens that we serve in S.F.,” Esparza added. “We have cultural diversity training in the academy and work with many groups, agencies and have policies against biased policing. Our job is to protect life and property, maintain law and order, and anyone who commits crimes will be arrested plain and simple.”
Police use of force has become a major issue in recent months, fueled by the deaths of unarmed African American suspects in Ferguson, Mo., New York and North Charleston, S.C. On Tuesday, after rioting in Baltimore prompted by the death of a black man who was injured in police custody, President Obama called for a national discussion about how police interact with the public.
In San Francisco, racial disparities in arrest rates are commonplace. African Americans made up 47 percent of all people arrested by San Francisco police from 2009 to 2014, according to department statistics.
Disparity with black women
A study this month by the San Francisco nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice found that the disparity in arrest rates for African American women in San Francisco versus women of other races has “risen sharply” over the past 35 years. It found that African American women are arrested in San Francisco at a rate of more than 13 times higher than other women of other races.