Report finds Tasers could help avert shootings 

More than a half-dozen officer-involved shootings would not have occurred in the past five years if police were armed with Tasers, a new San Francisco Police Department study said.

And police Chief George Gascón, who ordered the study, supports equipping SFPD officers with Tasers. Current members of the Police Commission have expressed some interest in allowing officers to carry the stun guns that subdue violent suspects.

“It’s a less-lethal tool that, when used appropriately, generally leads to less injury than the alternatives,” Gascón said.

In the past five years, there were at least 15 incidents in which 26 city police officers hit their mark after discharging their firearms, injuring or killing people.

Of those incidents, eight involved situations where the suspect was not threatening officers with a firearm, but rather a knife, physical force or a vehicle, according to the report.

“SFPD members generally were able to attempt to exercise at least one other level of force prior to the discharge of their firearm,” the report said.

It criticized the less-lethal options, like bean-bag guns or batons, officers are currently given in such situations, noting that when police were less than 15 feet from a suspect, it was too dangerous to use a shotgun loaded with bean bags or a baton.

The report also recommended that the Police Department have a policy prohibiting officers from shooting at moving vehicles. Officers shot at moving vehicles in three of the 15 incidents evaluated, and that “produces poor results and high risk,” the report said.

Investigations of five of the shootings showed the suspects may have had mental health problems. The study signaled a need to make sure all officers are trained to handle such situations.

“Not all sworn members have received the 40-hour Police Crisis Intervention Training, which has been proven effective in enhancing officer safety and in dealing with persons of crisis,” the report said.

It also signaled a need for the SFPD to shore up its management of crime scenes following an officer-involved shooting, which “lacked consistency and adequate command and control.” And it noted that top brass failed to make statements to the media within 24 hours of such an incident, which was not the best practice.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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