Police Chief Greg Suhr has zapped a pilot project that would have armed 5 percent of The City’s police force with stun guns, arguing that the plan suggested by community members was so restrictive that officers saw no point in carrying the devices.
Suhr’s plan would have given 118 stun guns to officers who are specially trained to handle people who suffer from a mental illness. The devices are intended to immobilize people by delivering 50,000 volts of electricity.
But after months of discussions in which the community’s input was worked into the plan, the end result was too limiting for police officers, according to Suhr. The constraints were too “onerous,” he said.
“Some things like, not adjacent to traffic, not on elevated areas, not on elderly, small, thin, at-risk people — which is really a very vague definition,” Suhr said at Wednesday’s Police Commission meeting.
The many restrictions, Suhr said, “would create so much pause in the minds of the officers it could actually put them and the public more at risk by having them.”
Officers reportedly told Suhr if the plan moved forward they simply wouldn’t use the stun guns.
Suhr is The City’s third straight police chief who met debilitating opposition while trying to arm officers with stun guns. Numerous groups voiced concerns over his proposal, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and the San Francisco Coalition on
Opponents said the department should take the different approach of improving community relations and increasing specialized training, as they fear stun guns will be disproportionately used on already-disenfranchised populations.
The police chief began his effort after a July incident in which a chocolate factory worker was fatally shot by a police officer after he allegedly attacked a colleague with a box cutter.
Giving officers a less lethal alternative to the gun is a “moral obligation,” Suhr said, adding that options currently available to police are not effective or feasible.
Commissioners supported Suhr’s decision to pull the plug on the pilot project.
“I join the chief in thinking … something less lethal than a gun is required,” Commissioner L. Julius Turman said. “That option today is not Tasers, certainly not the Taser model that exists today. … There are other options that we need to look at.”