Delayed taser vote leaves top cop at square one 

Sgt. Joe McCloskey was clicking off the safety on his pistol just before the 245-pound man in his sights was finally pulled down.

In the Jan. 24 incident at a Tenderloin liquor store, McCloskey and three officers tried to subdue the man, even beating him on the legs with a baton. He ended up sending three officers to the hospital. In a split second, the man could’ve been dead if more police hadn’t arrived.

“Nothing we did seemed to hurt him,” McCloskey said, adding a personal touch to hours of testimony from experts at a Police Commission meeting Wednesday night about the safety of electronic stun guns, or Tasers.

But after the hearing — and five years after failed attempt to implement usage of the stun guns in San Francisco — the seven-member civilian body decided to delay a vote on Tasers by at least two weeks.

The commission’s approval would have allowed police Chief George Gascón to develop a Taser policy to bring back to the Police Commission in about 90 days for final approval.

Commissioners Yvonne Lee, Vincent Pan and Petra DeJesus called for the delay, asking for more time to gather community input and to digest the information from the experts called in by Gascón. Newly appointed Commissioner Jim Hammer also called for the delay, saying he wanted to move forward with a unified commission.

Of concern was a recent recommendation from the manufacturer of Tasers to law enforcement agencies to avoid shooting the stun guns at the chest, DeJesus said. Police are trained to shoot their handguns at the largest part of the body — the chest — but with Tasers, shooting near the heart could be fatal.

The delay was met with exasperation from Gascón and the other commissioners — President Joe Marshall, Vice President Thomas Mazzucco and David Onek — who appear to be divided on a number of policy issues. DeJesus, for example, recently called for a resolution requiring the chief to vet policy issues with the commission before going to the media or other sources.

Gascón called the delay in the Taser decision “unconscionable.” He said before he could go to the community for feedback, he needed to have a policy to share. Gascón, however, cannot develop a policy until the commission clears him to do so.

“The incident that occurred in the Tenderloin four weeks ago should not have occurred [in] this day and age,” he said.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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