Though the number of arrests and contacts with the public were at the lowest level in years, Modesto police officers used force more often in 2008 and 2009 than in previous years, and the department saw a 22 percent increase in citizen complaints alleging police misconduct.
Officers resorted to using take-down moves, batons, Tasers, pepper spray or firearms 250 times in 2009, when 15,023 arrests were made, a rate of 1.7 percent.
The use-of-force rate, which tells how often officers use pain or weaponry during an arrest, was 1.5 percent in 2008-09 period, compared with 1.2 percent from 2004 to 2007.
The Police Department also received an increased number of complaints alleging misconduct in 2008 and 2009. Of the 151 complaints, 37 people complained that officers used unreasonable force.
There were 124 citizen complaints in 2006 and 2007, including 30 complaints regarding the force used by officers.
The numbers, though far from conclusive, could fuel public sentiment that the city needs to look closely at how Modesto officers are using force when making arrests or controlling a crowd.
Friday, the city is expected to announce the hiring of a law firm to conduct an administrative investigation of the Police Department.
City management called for the probe based on a letter sent to Police Chief Mike Harden and top city officials a month ago. The unsigned letter, purportedly written by an MPD employee, names officers who are allegedly committing acts of brutality and claims department managers are looking the other way.
City officials have said that details in the letter warrant investigation.