Are Vallejo officers using force more often than they used to?

The Vallejo Police Department has spent the past several years working to ensure its officers resort to using force only when strictly necessary.

But the agency’s new data tracking system – which aims to capture more thorough information on use-of-force arrests – makes it impossible to tell whether this effort has been successful.

Police data released last month appears to show a massive increase in Vallejo officers using weapons like batons, Tasers and projectile launchers to arrest people.

Reported use-of-force incidents soared from 38 in all of 2022 to 198 as of the end of September – a more than fivefold increase. Reported control holds skyrocketed from two in 2022 to 92 in the first nine months of 2023. The number of takedowns that police reported likewise jumped from 16 to 91.

The numbers appear to fly in the face of the California Department of Justice’s attempts to curb excessive force in a police department infamous for its strained and sometimes violent relationship with its community.

In a Monday press release, Vallejo police clarified what had happened.

Even though the VPD displayed its 2023 data side by side with data from 2022, changes in how the agency measures use-of-force incidents mean that comparing the two years is difficult. For instance, while the previous numbers only included control holds where the suspect made a complaint about pain or injury, the current numbers list all control holds regardless of their outcome.

“Due to this significant change in UOF criteria and data collection metrics, the department is informing the public that a month-to-month or year-to-year comparison using two separate processes and criteria can be confusing,” the VPD said. “As we continue to collect this data in this manner, a more direct comparison can be made using 2023 data compared to 2024 data.”

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