Police union calls for Tasers after shooting

Two weeks after a fatal officer-involved shooting that led to a public outcry, the San Francisco Police Officers Association is urging The City to issue stun guns to officers.

Martin Halloran, the president of the police union, today called on the San Francisco Police Commission and the Police Department to move ahead with the issuance of Tasers to officers.

Halloran said Tasers could have saved the life of 26-year-old San Francisco resident Mario Woods, who was shot dead by five police officers in the city’s Bayview District on Dec. 2.

Videos that circulated widely on social media appear to show Woods, who was thought to be a suspect in an earlier stabbing, limping away from officers at the time he was shot.

The incident has triggered a public debate about police use of force policies and prompted police Chief Greg Suhr to renew efforts to arm officers with stun guns.

“Let’s move on this, let’s move on it now,” Halloran said.

He said the chief’s office and the Police Commission are looking at the entire use of force policy and that the police union will be meeting with them next week to discuss those policies.

The San Francisco Police Department has tried multiple times in recent years to win approval for the use of Tasers, but has run into community opposition from civil rights and homeless advocates, among others, who argued they were too dangerous and often used unnecessarily.

Suhr shelved the most recent effort in 2013, saying the restrictions that were proposed for the less-lethal weapons would have prevented their use in most situations.

Apart from Tasers, Halloran said, the department could also consider deploying pepper spray balls or stinger balls to bring people into compliance.

While Suhr also has championed the use of shields, Halloran said he worried they may not work when officers are trying to take on a person with a sharp object “without endangering my members.” The department also introduced a new policy earlier this month that requires officers to alert their supervisors if they draw their firearms.

Halloran said that policy, which considers drawing a weapon as a reportable use of force, was already in the works prior to Woods’ death, and was developed in response to a federal court ruling.

Halloran said, “the 9th Circuit court has ruled on that under Green vs. City and County of San Francisco,” and the department must adhere to what the courts rule on.

Halloran noted, however, that the departmental bulletin outlining the policy “did not give complete directions to the members.”