SFPD Continues Push for Tasers

Written by David Elliott Lewis. Posted in Crime, Healthcare, Opinion, Politics

Tagged: , , , , ,

Published on August 03, 2012 with 7 Comments

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr returned to the Police Commission Wednesday arguing for the use of Tasers. Photos by David Elliot Lewis.

By David Elliot Lewis

August 3, 2012

Despite strong public opposition to their use, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr returned to the Police Commission Wednesday arguing for the adoption and use of Tasers by the police department.

A public outcry has so far prevented two previous attempts to introduce the less lethal electro-shock weapons..

The hearing was scheduled with extremely short public notice. Had it been announced more widely and with sufficient notice, many more would have attended.

A slide-show presentation on Tasers was presented by Clay Winn, VP OF Strategic Relations, Taser International – the sole source corporate supplier of the devices.

Suhr proposed to initially limit Taser deployment to Crises Intervention Team (CIT) officers – those who have been specially trained to respond to mental health crises encounters.

Many, including the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, have expressed strong concerns against this approach.

One of main concerns is that Tasers dangerously lowers the threshold in which force can be applied. This can undermine the verbal de-escalation strategies CIT officers have been trained to use. During a stressful mental health crises confrontation with a suspect, the easier solution may be more likely to be used. That is, an officer under duress and stress may be more likely to just zap and quickly end the confrontation.

There are also concerns about the health impacts of Tasers. These were presented by the testimony by Dr. Tseng, a UCSF cardiologist and researcher. He presented research on the effects of electrical shocks to the heart. He displayed research showing it can increase the risk of ventricular defibrillation. He said the risks were significant enough that every squad car carrying officers equipped with Tasers should also carry an Automatic Defibrillator. This expensive life-saving remedy, however, would not be available to officers on foot patrols nor away from their cars.

Dr. Tseng also expressed concerns about “usage creep.” This has already been demonstrated when Tasers have been used against citizens for not complying with a police order or who are just being verbally combative.

Even the Taser International representative, Clay Winn, said that the safest area to target is the suspect’s back or legs. The former is unlikely to be available and the latter is also a difficult target to strike. Given that police officers are trained to aim for a suspect’s center of mass, a leg strike is unlikely.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Police Commission asked the SFPD to work with Commissioners Angela Chan, Suzy Loftus and Julius Turman, the office of Citizen Complaints, plus consult with representatives of communities of color, the LGBT community and mental health professionals. They also asked this working group to review research on other “less lethal” alternatives. This subgroup is asked to report on their progress monthly and then deliver their recommendations in 90 days. The first report will be at the next Police Commission meeting on September 5th, 2012.


SFPD Commander Mikail Ali discusses the use of Tasers with the police commission.

Members of the public prepare to provide public comment to the Police Commission.

The controversial use of Tasers attracted interested media coverage.

David Elliott Lewis

David was originally trained as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. Working as a consultant to large organizations, he created and fielded software to assist in executive performance assessment. He also taught Masters level courses in the Human Resources and Organizational Development program at the University of San Francisco. From 1984 to 2000, he founded and ran the database software development, publishing and consulting company Strategic Edge. More recently he has been engaging in political writing, photography, activism and volunteering to improve his community. He currently serves as the secretary of the city's Mental Health Board.

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Comments for SFPD Continues Push for Tasers are now closed.

  1. Hey,

       SF no longer recruits from within the City.   Their hires are strictly mercenary.   They call em, ‘lateral transfers’ and they hire the worst from other municipalities.     Recall Jessie Serna?    Hired him after he was fired by another department for being brutal.

    What’s SFPD do with him?

    Made him a training officer.

    One of his tricks was to wear the jacket (complete w/name tag) of an officer on duty in a different district or not on duty at all when he wanted to feel free to beat the shit out of anyone from a doctor or one of Willie’s receptionists.    Oh, it happened.

    Cops like this will shoot a defenseless person with tasers over and over and over.

    The answer?

    Don’t fire any cops but don’t hire any more either.

    For the next 400 hires, do it from inside the community.

    Through the Patrol Specials force.

    There were 400 of them and now there are 40.

    Cause, they are from the neighborhood and walk their beats.

    The mercenaries hate them.

    When their leader (Jane Warner) was on her death bed dying of cancer, POA head Gary Delagnes sent his officers to serve her papers for not showing up in court (she was dying I repeat) cause they flagged her for jaywalking when she  was controlling traffic in her beloved Castro on the last free Castro Street Halloween celebration.

    Hire San Francisco people to be San Francisco police.

    Go Giants!



    • How did you know they hire him back?

  2. All over the nation I saw the barbaric and violent behavior of bully power-trip cops using their batons on peaceful Occupy protesters. That was with a baton.  Why would any rational, sensible, reasonable thinking person trust them with a taser?…or even a gun after seeing what they can do with just a baton?  Insanity.

  3. Amnesty International is opposed to the police use of Tasers.  Hundred of people have died from their application.  True, Tasers are less lethal or injurious than bullets.  However, as the article alluded, it’s way too easy for the police to rely on Tasers than using better less injurious negotiating or tactical strategies with members of the public.

    • Negotiating strategies with crack-heads and psychotics don’t always work.  There needs to be something between negotiating and shooting with a gun.  I suspect getting Tasered is ultimately preferable to getting shot with a .45, if that is the only option.  Perhaps shooting someone with a traquilizer dart might be an alternative. 

      • actually, a tranquilizing dart leaves cops vulnerable to lawsuits if the subject is allergic to the drug. this is why in some counties, only paramedics can administer the “VerseD” drug, not the cops.

    • Also, tasers are often used punitively, rather than defensively, by undertrained and/or out-of-control police officers.