In wake of Mario Woods’ Killing, should SFPD be authorized to use Tasers?

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Crime, Law, Opinion, Politics

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Published on December 17, 2015 with 4 Comments


By Ralph E. Stone

December 17, 2015

In the aftermath of the killing of Mario Woods by five San Francisco police officers, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has again asked lawmakers to authorize police officers to use Tasers.  I believe San Francisco police officers should have Tasers as long as the department adopts the latest California electronic control weapon guidelines and individual police officers are thoroughly trained in their use.

A Taser, or conducted electrical weapon sold by Taser International Inc., is a gun-like weapon that shoots electrical volts instead of bullets.  The twin prongs of a Taser carry 50,000 volts of electricity.  Tasers can be used in two modes.  In “probe” mode the user shoots the Taser prongs at the victim from a distance.  In “drive stun” mode, the user holds the prongs directly against the skin of the victim.

Tasers will provide police officers a less deadly means than firearms to control a violent or potentially violent individual while at the same time minimizing the risk of serious injury to police officers and suspects.  I think everyone would agree that Tasers will result in less fatalities and serious injuries than firearms.  Yes, deaths and injuries will result as it will with any use of force by a police officer.  Police officers are already trained to use various force techniques and weapons to overcome resistance. These include using their hands, arms or bodies to push or pull against a suspect to gain control; pepper spray; batons; and firearms.  Why not just add the use of Tasers to their training?

Taser use would be improper when a police officers uses the Taser in situations where no force was necessary or where a far less drastic use of force would have been adequate.  The standard is, is the use of the Taser reasonable under the circumstances?  For example, according to most guidelines, the use of Tasers would be improper against pregnant females; the elderly; juveniles; individuals who are handcuffed or otherwise restrained; individuals who have been recently sprayed with a flammable chemical agent or who are otherwise in close proximity to any flammable material; and individuals whose position or activity may result in collateral injury (e.g., falls from height, operating vehicles).

I recommend San Francisco police officers be authorized to use tasers after the San Francisco Police Department adopts guidelines and each police officer is trained in their use.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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Comments for In wake of Mario Woods’ Killing, should SFPD be authorized to use Tasers? are now closed.

  1. I disagree Ralph. Here’s a KPFA report, “Jeremy Miller on the ‘less lethal’ police taser fiction, produced in 2013.

    Here’s another I produced with Berkeley Copwatch founder Andrea Prichett, in which se says that “600 people have died in incidents related to tasers and that study after study has said that, there is definitely a possibility of death when you use tasers against somebody.”

  2. SF Police need tools to deal with dangerous people on the streets with weapons, such as Mario Woods. If they had other methods to deal with him, we wouldn’t be talking about Mario, and instead about the person he stabbed – or would we?

  3. I agree with you Ralph. I have been tazed and trust me it was better than the alternative of a bullet.

  4. San Francisco police officers have repeatedly demonstrated that they improperly use the tools at their current disposal. They have also shown a willingness on numerous occasions to escalate confrontations by applying much more force than necessary, of which the temptation to use a stun gun is obvious, but not justified. The public should also be made aware of the many times stun guns have been employed to torture subjects as a form of extrajudicial punishment.
    It should also be noted that stun guns are also dangerous weapons and have caused the death of hundreds of people, through their use and in the case of Oscar Grant, their improper use.
    Don’t fall for Taser International’s “copaganda” regarding these dangerous weapons.
    Building public trust is much more important to public and LEO safety.