Police reform hearing is all about Tasers

Sups say that Tasers undermine the whole idea of reform in the SFPD's Use of Force rules

A hearing on police reform that was supposed to focus on the 272 recommendations the Department of Justice has given the city today wound up focusing to a great extent on the use of Tasers.

Both Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer urged Chief William Scott to slow down the discussion of adding the electric zap guns to the local police arsenal. “Until we have addressed the training, the culture, and the bias, it’s not good to escalate with another weapon,” Fewer said.

Why do we keep hearing that the cops need yet another weapon?

She noted that the Taser company now includes eight pages of warnings about the stun guns, including advice not to shoot people who are pregnant, mentally ill, or have a low basal metabolic rate. Officers in many cases can’t tell whether people fall into those categories.

Tasers, as Fewer pointed out, are not “nonlethal” weapons. They are, at best, “less lethal.”

“I think it’s prudent to work on other issues,” she said.

Ronen argued that, at a time when the city is working hard on implementing a new Use of Force policy, adding Tasers will undermine that progress.

A speaker from the Bar Association of San Francisco testified that the agency has voted unanimously to oppose Tasers for SF cops.

Barbara Attard, former police auditor for San Jose, noted that “

There’s a lot still to do: The department has only implemented 81 of the recommendations, and the DOJ under Trump has withdrawn from its oversight role.

And yet, Scott is asking the Police Commission (once again) to authorize the purchase and use of Tasers, and the issue will come up again in October. We will keep you posted.

  • Tony

    Give Tasers to the Police now! They need less than lethal means of dealing with whacked out perps.

  • M. Montrouge

    Brilliant logic! Tasers are only "less than lethal", so…you should leave them only with a more lethal option? So instead of tasering a potentially pregnant woman, you are left with the choice of punching or shooting her? Obviously Tim would say, well you should be able to deescalate instead, but what if that's definitely not an option?

  • sfsquirrel

    Pretty sure the two other commenters here either did not read this article or read it only to dismiss it. Nice job botching a two-word quote.

    • Tony

      I wasn't quoting Ms Fewer. the lack of quotation marks might have been a clue.

  • sebra leaves

    Excellent points made by the public commenters. Quite a few experts and even the legal professionals oppose the use of tasers based on detailed data they have from cities that use them, such as San Jose. Not one public speaker that I saw supports the use of tasers. How can the Police Commission, or the Board of Supervisors agree to pay for tasers when there is no public support? Of course the next hearing there will be supporters because the marketing team for them will see to that.

    • playland

      <blockquote>pay for tasers when there is no public support?</blockquote>How do you know that there is no public support? Can you link to the study please? Thanks.

      I'm just surprised because, if I had to guess, I think that tasers would win 70%-30% right now in a referendum. People are fed up with the state of lawlessness and I think you overestimate the level of public sympathy for those who resist arrest.

      • sebra leaves

        The people I observed at the meeting opposed the tasers.

        • playland

          OK. That's what I thought. You didn't have any real basis for saying that there was no public support, Thanks.

          • sebra leaves

            I watched the tape and observed no support for tasers. Suggest other people do that before commenting.

  • curiousKulak

    I don't support giving cops another 'arm chair' weapon (a weapon they can use, as if watching from an arm-chair – instead of physically hitting, wrestling or otherwise subduing a perp).

    IF they vote to buy/allow tasers, then the UOF rules should include strict reporting reqs, a la 'shots fired' protocol, so that cowboy officers don't use these things as recreation or entertainment.

    That said, there should be other ways of handling many situations. That does include "deescalation" but also less lethal weapons.