Stun-gun debate heats up as SF Police Chief Suhr renews request

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Mayor Ed Lee’s statement on police shooting irks union leader.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco’s police chief wants city officials to arm his department with Tasers amid continued protests over the shooting death of a knife-wielding suspect last week.SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco police officers union issued a statement Tuesday defending five unnamed officers who shot and killed an allegedly armed man in the city’s Bayview District last week.

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. 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. The Police Commission prepared Wednesday evening to consider the department’s use-of-force policy and Chief Greg Suhr’s new push to arm officers with stun guns following the public outcry over Woods’ death. The rally was timed to take place prior to a Police Commission meeting, where commissioners were expected to take up the idea of arming police officers in the city with Tasers.

But opponents of the measure stood by their stance from years before that arming officers with a tool that has been linked to hundreds of deaths in the U.S. in the past 15 years is no substitute for proper training of officers. 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. 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. The request comes in the wake of last Wednesday’s fatal shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city’s Bayview neighborhood that was captured on two video clips, both circulated widely online.

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. Police said that he was armed with a kitchen knife used in the stabbing and that officers had no choice but to shoot him when he refused to drop the weapon despite attempts to disarm him with beanbag rounds and pepper spray. The shooting also led San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to call for police to use what he called “minimal force.” “Law enforcement does not go to a knife fight with a knife,” Martin Halloran said. “We go in with what it takes.

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. Don’t forget, this person stabbed someone 15 minutes before.” Police said Woods was a suspect in a stabbing of a victim who arrived at San Francisco General Hospital at about 3:50 p.m. on Dec. 2 and said he had been stabbed near the corner of Third Street and Le Conte Avenue.

This is a classic power struggle — those that have power were exercising power over the powerless, and that transcends race and class,” Cohen said. 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.

The chief had asked the commission to consider stun guns at the end of 2012, calling it a “moral obligation” to provide his officers with something less lethal than a gun, especially when it came to dealing with subjects in distress. 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.

Officials of the local NAACP chapter said at a special meeting Monday on the Woods shooting that police need more sensitivity training in working not just with mentally ill people but also with those in largely African American and Latino neighborhoods. Halloran, Lee and police Chief Greg Suhr have all called for officers to be equipped with Taser stun guns, but the idea has failed several times amid public controversy over the safety of the devices.

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. Meanwhile, following calls from the community to de-escalate police confrontations, Suhr said he is equipping police 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. Micaela Davis, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said Suhr is taking attention away from his officers’ alleged failure to use additional tactics with Woods that might have defused the situation. “Chief Suhr has said that if officers were armed with Tasers, the shooting of Mario Woods would not have occurred,” Davis said. “But there were other tactical decisions that could have been done to prevent that shooting.

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. Tools are only a piece of it, and there is a whole host of training that the department needs to undergo in order to make the department more accountable to the community it polices.” At the heart of the opponents’ stance against Tasers is that they have the potential to kill. 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.

It needs to be restricted because they’re not foolproof.” But for those arguing in favor of Tasers, more people were killed in police shootings in 2015 alone than the total number killed by stun guns in the 15 years that Amnesty International has been tracking Taser deaths. But I see no move to prohibit use for noncompliance.” In general, Moskos said, police should be reluctant to use force and should have the training in place to get a subject to comply with orders without resorting to force.

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