SF's Officers for Justice comes out against Tasers

March 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The group representing African American police officers in San Francisco has come out against Tasers. They're taken this stance just as the police commission is getting ready to vote on the controversial issue as to whether officers should be armed with Tasers.

The group, Officers for Justice-Peace Officers Association, sent a letter to Mayor Ed Lee saying they do not support the proposed increased use of Tasers or stun guns. They say they're against Tasers because they're afraid they'll be used on certain classes of people like drug abusers, mentally disabled, and minorities.

"An overwhelming number of people we deal with come from the minority community," said Sgt. Kevin McPherson with SFPD Officers for Justice. "And they are arrested, it seems to be, at a majority rate in the city of San Francisco."

Every time there's a high profile officer involved shooting, the Taser debate rears its head again. The latest one was triggered late last year when an officer shot and killed a man armed with a box cutter after he assaulted a coworker at chocolate factory Tcho on the Embarcadero.

Last August Police Chief Greg Suhr told the police commission he believed Tasers could save lives; and that to start with, he wanted to arm certain officers with Tasers.

"I'm asking it for our crisis intervention trained officers," said Suhr in August 2012. "There are about 74 of them right now."

Chief Suhr was out of town Friday, but his public information officer said it would be a way to test the weapon.

"We are saving lives, it can be proven as a very viable tool for all of our officers to use," Officer Carlos Manfredi said.

The police commission has held public hearings in response to the chief's request. It may vote on the controversial issue next month. So this letter from the Officers for Justice is timely.

A leading opponent to Tasers is Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness. She's excited to have a police group supporting her position.

"They can be very lethal," she said. "And we've had, just in California, about 173 deaths and a whole lot of lawsuits for excessive force."

But the Police Officers Association's position is contrary to the one Officers for Justice- has taken.

In a statement SF Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes told ABC7 News, "We support Chief Greg Suhr's position on the use of Tasers. The POA believes they're an appropriate tool for law enforcement. Tasers can save lives."

We spoke privately to several members of Officers for Justice and they tell us that this position was in no way unanimous, that there were many members in the group who support the use of Tasers.

As for Mayor Ed Lee, his aides say he just returned from Paris so he hasn't seen the letter. But they did text me saying that the mayor supports the assessment of the chief and the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department on this matter.


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