The City’s top cop asked the Police Commission on Wednesday to consider a pilot program to arm 74 officers who have completed crisis intervention training with nonlethal devices such as Tasers.
Commissioners were at odds over how to proceed or whether officers should have them at all, but all agreed to at least continue to explore the proposal.
For years, the commission has discussed arming cops with firearms alternatives. To move the discussion forward, commissioners passed a resolution in February 2011 requiring a report exploring Tasers and other nonlethal devices within 90 days. The resolution also required the Police Department to touch base with the community.
However, that report was never completed.
The most recent officer-involved shooting came July 18 when Pralith Pralourng, 32, was killed after he allegedly attacked a co-worker at the TCHO chocolate factory with a box cutter. Pralourng, whose family has said was mentally ill, allegedly lunged at a veteran female officer with the bloody box cutter.
Suhr said a Taser could have prevented Pralourng’s death.
“I think we need something between a baton and pepper spray,” Suhr said. “Given the option of being hit with a .42-caliber bullet or a Taser, I’m going to choose a Taser.”
During Wednesday’s presentation, Suhr pointed out that the police in every other major U.S. city have some form of nonlethal device.
With the discussion came opposition, however. Supervisor David Campos, for instance, said during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that the devices are not effective for police. The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed the move for years, saying the electrical charge can cause serious injury. It sent a 12-page letter to Mayor Ed Lee on Wednesday urging his opposition.
Also, the family of Pralourng said Tasers and other nonlethal devices are not the answer. They urged the Police Commission not to use Pralourng’s death as a platform, but instead to support quality training and police transparency.