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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shootings study to see if stun guns would help

A commenter asks the question that first came to my mind: "How is Gascón choosing which twenty shootings to review? Is he picking the ones that will reinforce whichever decision he's already made?"

September 19, 2009
Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco's new police chief, a proponent of stun guns, has ordered a review of at least 20 officer-involved shootings since 2005, a study likely to include a look at whether stun guns would have made a difference, police officials said Friday.

Chief George Gascón told the Police Commission he would analyze "all officer-involved shootings for the past several years," and planned to turn over his findings within 90 days.

The analysis is expected to include whether less-than-lethal weapons would have been effective, including Taser stun guns, said department spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka.

San Francisco police do not carry stun guns, but Gascón "has mentioned looking into Tasers," Tomioka said.

The devices shoot darts attached to wires that deliver electric shocks intended to subdue suspects.

Critics of the devices question their less-than-lethal status. Amnesty International says 334 people died in the United States from 2001 to August 2008 after being hit by Tasers.

"You always hear the one story where somebody dies from a Taser, but there's thousands and thousands or more of incidents where Tasers work," Tomioka said.

Gascón told the Police Commission of his plans during its meeting Wednesday, during which the officer involved in a Sept. 5 fatal shooting was reinstated to regular duty after a preliminary inquiry.

Police said the officer, whose name was not made public, shot 37-year-old Xi Yu Li on Raymond Avenue in Visitacion Valley as Li charged police with an 11-inch, stainless steel cleaver.

Officers first tried to stop Li with bean-bag guns, but they were ineffective, police said.

A 2008 review by the Police Executive Research Forum, a group of police executives from around the country, recommended that San Francisco police use stun guns. It called for "a community education component along with an implementation plan that gradually introduces" stun guns.

The analysis Gascón ordered this week will examine eight fatal and 12 nonfatal shootings since 2005, Tomioka said. Among the results could be changes in officer training and tactics, the department said.

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