In an effort by Police Chief Greg Suhr to equip San Francisco police officers with stun guns, the first of three community meetings is expected to take place today.
Last month, Suhr told members of the Board of Supervisors that he would like to launch a pilot program to give stun guns to about 103 officers specially trained to handle mentally ill people. The devices are capable of shooting 50,000 volts of electricity through a person’s body.
The Police Commission has resisted such proposals in recent years from Suhr’s predecessors. The commission approved a resolution in February 2011 outlining the steps the department would need to go through for the commission to vote on a pilot program, which included a more in-depth examination of less lethal uses of force and community meetings. The first in a series of those meetings, being held by commissioners and top police brass, is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Hamilton Recreation Center at 1900 Geary Blvd.
The stun gun debate is a contentious issue and generates strong opposition from such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union and the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. Critics say stun guns, while billed as nonlethal, can cause injuries and death. They worry that officers will use the devices unnecessarily, exposing The City to lawsuits.
Suhr, however, said last month that he felt it was his “moral obligation” to outfit his force with stun guns after an officer fatally shot a man who allegedly attacked a co-worker with a box cutter July 18 at the TCHO chocolate factory.
If the commission were to ultimately approve the stun gun pilot, the battle may not end there. It’s conceivable the Board of Supervisors also would debate the program since it could possibly eliminate funding for the purchase of the devices.