February 25, 2010
Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón challenged the city's Police Commission on Wednesday to approve Tasers, saying it was inexcusable and "negligent" to deny officers a less-lethal means of dealing with dangerous suspects.
San Francisco is one of the few major U.S. cities that does not arm its officers with the stun guns. Last week, the commission balked at Gascón's proposal to develop a protocol for equipping officers with the devices, with four of the seven members rejecting the idea and the entire panel agreeing to reconsider the matter next Wednesday.
The department has touted an internal study that found that one-third of officer-involved shootings over five years might have been avoided with stun guns. But some commissioners voiced concern about the safety of Tasers, and others said they needed time to review research about suspects who have died after being stunned with the devices.
Gascón, saying he had received numerous supportive phone calls and e-mails after the proposal stalled, summoned three members of the commission to a news conference Wednesday to make his case.
"This is the right tool, at the right time," Gascón said. "It is not a perfect tool. ... It is not nonlethal. We understand that occasionally, the Taser has been found to be a contributing factor in the death of someone during an altercation with police."
But he said in many of those cases, "you have people who are extremely fragile. People who probably, if you were to ask them to run around the block, they would probably suffer cardiac arrest.
"So it's somewhat disingenuous to simply say that Tasers caused this," he said.
Gascón noted that in 2009, 107 officer injuries cost the city an estimated $2.25 million in workers compensation. He said equipping officers with Tasers would reduce the number of injuries, save some suspects' lives and save the city money it now spends on litigation over shootings.
"This is a very critical issue for this community - and we need this community to speak out and speak out loud and clearly on this issue," Gascón said. "It is unexcusable, it's negligent for us not to have the ability to equip our police officers with Tasers."
He said the department will develop a "thoughtful policy" on the devices that will allow officers to use them only when dealing with aggressive, combative suspects.
Three police commissioners, Joe Marshall, Jim Hammer and Thomas Mazzucco, attended the news conference.
Hammer's presence was especially significant, because he voted against the Taser proposal last week. On Wednesday, he said he supported giving Tasers to officers and had voted against the proposal only to give other commissioners time to think it over.
"I do support the chief moving forward with this," Hammer said. He said the chief should come to the panel with "a careful, smart" deployment policy within 60 days, not the 90 days called for in the commission resolution that failed last week.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, February 25, 2010
February 25, 2010