San Francisco police chief urges stun gun use after shooting

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Family wants federal probe in SF police killing.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco is one of only two large cities in the country that do not equip officers with stun guns, a situation the city’s police chief wants to change after police fatally shot a knife-wielding stabbing suspect last week. The cousin of a man shot to death by San Francisco police says the family wants the five officers who fired their guns to be charged in the case and the police chief to resign.There was one person conspicuously absent from Mayor Ed Lee’s news conference the other day on the fatal police shooting in the Bayview — the head of the police union. Police Chief Greg Suhr publicly renewed a call Wednesday night to add the weapon to his department’s arsenal, exactly one week after five officers shot and killed 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city’s Bayview neighborhood.

Another shows five officers firing their weapons as Woods is seen holding his left side, limping down a sidewalk along a wall and appearing to show him approaching an officer with gun drawn who is walking toward Woods. Halloran echoed Mayor Ed Lee and Chief Greg Suhr’s call for officers to be equipped with Tasers, an idea that has failed several times amid public controversy over the safety of the devices. Most recently, the Justice Department has opened a wide-ranging investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department focusing on concerns over use of deadly force and racial bias. Woods was fatally shot by police while wielding a knife on Third Street near Fitzgerald Avenue, near a T-Third Street San Francisco Municipal Railway stop.

Police Commissioner Joe Marshall, who was on hand with the mayor, later told reporters, “The fact that one officer fired, then all the other officers fired, is what has the community up in arms. The announcement came after the city released an explosive video of a white Chicago police officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times and killing him in October. To me, it felt like an execution.” Halloran countered, “You can’t judge a situation on the basis of an eight-second video.” He noted that Woods, who had allegedly stabbed a man in the shoulder, had been pepper-sprayed and shot with nonlethal beanbags, and still wasn’t surrendering. Civil rights groups and community activists say that, instead of more equipment, police need additional training in crisis intervention and how to defuse confrontations between police and armed suspects who sometimes are mentally disturbed or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Shocking as the images were of police circling and then gunning down Woods, a black man, it went largely unnoticed that the officer who first stood in Woods’ path and took aim at him was himself African American, according to police sources. Suhr and three of his predecessors previously failed to win the police commission authorization for stun guns even as the vast majority of the nation’s law enforcement agencies have been outfitting officers with the weapon, which is shaped like a handgun and often is holstered on the officer’s gun belt.

However, Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview, said there is clear frustration in the African American community no matter the color of the officers. “This is not a black-white issue. Vigils and protests following Woods’ death have emphasized the public’s desire for police officers to de-escalate violent situations rather than using lethal force.

Previous police commissions rejected use of the Taser, saying they were concerned the weapon could kill and maim suspects, especially those with heart conditions. “It’s a good tool,” said Jay Wachtel, a criminologist at California State University, Fullerton. “The problem is that they don’t practice enough with them.” Wachtel said stun guns are designed for the situation— a man with a knife surrounded in close quarters by police officer — that led to the fatal shooting of Woods. This is a classic power struggle — those that have power were exercising power over the powerless, and that transcends race and class,” Cohen said. Police said Woods was a suspect in an earlier stabbing, of a victim who arrived at San Francisco General Hospital at 3:49 p.m. and said he had been stabbed near the corner of Third Street and Le Conte Avenue, not far from where Woods was shot.

Painting the town: San Jose is adding a bit of splash to its downtown by turning two Highway 87 underpasses into dazzling artworks — complete with painted murals, LED lighting and sensors that allow passersby to interact with the exhibits. It’s part of the city’s push to make downtown “look and feel like the capital of Silicon Valley,” said San Jose public arts director Jennifer Easton. Non-lethal force was used numerous times, including pepper spray along with the deployment of bean bags.” “With innocent bystanders nearby and the erratic behavior of the subject, the threat to life was imminent. If all goes well, don’t be surprised to start seeing psychedelic underpasses sprouting up all over the place — and not just in the South Bay’s capital.

He said that according to federal court rulings the officers did not even need to exhaust every alternative before they could legally resort to deadly force, but that it appears the officers did anyway. Even as San Francisco wraps up its approvals of the Warriors’ proposed arena, the small but well-financed opposition from the Mission Bay Alliance is promising to take its fight to court — and maybe even the ballot box.

The alliance, which is made up of a handful of deep-pocketed UCSF benefactors, is expected to file at least two lawsuits to stop the $1 billion-plus arena from being built next to the university’s medical center at Mission Bay. The other would seek to invalidate the memorandum of understanding signed by UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and Warriors officials that allows the arena to block the medical center’s views of the bay in exchange for the team agreeing to parking and traffic improvements.

He deserves to be breathing,” Stewart shouted during the hours-long, emotional meeting that was at times interrupted by chants of “Fire Chief Suhr! Suhr also said he is equipping department officers with 60 protective shields — 10 for each of the department’s six districts — and is looking toward increasing training for officers in de-escalation tactics, joining the national program Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force.

In San Francisco, Suhr said officers had no other weapons at their disposal except their handguns after pepper spray and bean bags failed to stop and disarm Woods. The city’s public defender also said it appeared that the shooting was not necessary. “If that exact same incident happened here in San Francisco,” Suhr said, “we would have nothing but lethal force.

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