San Francisco police chief defends officers' actions

February 9, 2012 8:39:17 PM PST
ABC7 has obtained exclusive video of San Francisco police beating down a suspect in an apartment building hallway. Police say the video only tells part of the story.

While there has yet to be the standard investigation that comes with any use of force incident, Suhr seems already convinced that his officers followed policy. He says, under the circumstances, there might have been many officers who would have used deadly force and still have been well within policy to do so.

Video shows how two San Francisco police officers struggled to subdue a mentally ill suspect in a Perry Street SRO hotel Tuesday night. The officers were called to the hotel after a resident and building manager said they were assaulted by the suspect.

Suhr has seen the video, and says when the two officers and pepper spray failed to subdue the suspect, a third officer's multiple punches were justified.

"And although not pretty, as chief of police, [it is] far preferable to shooting a mentally ill person in distress," Suhr said.

In the police report, a witness describes how the first, lone officer pulled a gun but kept it pointed downward, after the suspect repeatedly yelled that he had a gun and would use it.

"I think these officers should be commended and I think the family of this mentally ill person would much prefer to have it go down the way?bumps and bruises heal, gunshot wounds not so much," Suhr said.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi has also seen the video and has some concerns.

"It's good that nobody was shot; this is still is a situation that needs to be reviewed because, looking at the video tape, it does raise questions," Adachi said.

"I think they did a great job, we're working really hard right now so that we approach mentally ill people with a lot of thoughtfulness and a lot of restraint, a lot of patience," Suhr said.

"Punching a person in the head 10 times appears excessive, based on review of the videotape; there must be better ways than shooting someone or giving them serious injuries by beating them severely," deputy public defender Jay Rorty said.

Suhr says this case is a perfect example of why perhaps it's time to revisit the idea of San Francisco police carrying Tasers. That idea has been rejected in the past.


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