SF police commission delays vote on Tasers

February 18, 2010 5:46:46 PM PST
The San Francisco Police Commission Wednesday decided to wait two weeks before voting on a request by police Chief George Gascon to authorize the department to acquire Tasers.

The commission continued the issue to a March 3 meeting in order to have time to consider submitted information and review public testimony, police spokeswoman Lt. Lyn Tomioka said.

Gascon reiterated before the meeting his stance that Tasers are a "less-lethal" tool that can reduce injuries to both officers and suspects.

He added that San Francisco was one of very few large cities in the country whose police department did not have Tasers, and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department already employs them.

The police commission will decide in two weeks whether to authorize Gascon to develop policies and training practices regarding the use of the weapons.

Once the department's policy is drafted, the policy would also require approval from the commission, Gascon said. He said he hoped Tasers could be brought into use by the department in about a year.

Finding the funds to buy Tasers for the department could be another hurdle, as the city is facing an approximately $520 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

Tomioka said Wednesday the department is currently considering having Tasers available at each district station, but not having a Taser for every patrol officer.

Gascon said he hoped the department would be able to defer payment to manufacturers in order to acquire them as soon as possible.

The police commission Wednesday night also heard a presentation on a new study commissioned by Gascon on officer-involved shootings. The report analyzed 15 officer-involved shootings reported between January 2005 and August 2009.

The report, issued Jan. 20, does not specifically mention Tasers but concludes that in eight of the 15 shootings, "less-lethal" options "may have been a viable alternative to the use of deadly force."

Police already have an "extended-range impact weapon," a shotgun that shoots beanbags, but the report concluded that weapon would not have been safe in each of those situations because the officer and the suspect were too close.

The use of Tasers, which deliver an electric shock to temporarily disable muscle control, has been controversial and implicated in serious injuries and deaths.


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