SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr told the Police Commission that he is dropping his proposal to arm some officers with stun guns because of the “onerous” restrictions of their use.
Looking visibly disappointed, Suhr said he is giving up amid long-standing opposition among the city’s Police Commission and because limitations set on the stun gun’s use would probably cause more harm than good.
“Constraints put on the officers are so onerous that they would be reticent to use the tasers at all,” he said.
Suhr’s proposal asked for just five percent of his officers to be equipped with stun guns for use with suspects who could not be reasoned with — such the mentally ill or heavily intoxicated. He wanted officers to have other options to avoid the use of deadly force.
“I still feel, as I said in the beginning, that we have a moral obligation to afford our officers something less lethal than the gun,” Suhr said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups opposed the stun gun proposal, arguing that the devices are too dangerous and are often used unnecessarily.
The idea had also been viewed warily by some members of the Police Commission.
Commissioner Suzy Loftus said at Wednesday night’s meeting that shelving the proposal “is the right path moving forward.”
The devices are used by nearly every major police department in the country, as well as the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, which has had Tasers since 2002.
Similar proposals to allow San Francisco police to carry stun guns also stalled at Police Commission meetings in 2010 and 2011.
Stun guns are thought by many to actually save lives but San Francisco is one of the last major American cities where its police are not armed with stun guns. Robert Weisberg, a criminal justice professor at Stanford, said it’s due to circumstances that are unique to the city.
“There is something about the culture of San Francisco that tends to emphasize the negative rather than the positive side of Tasers,” Weisberg said. “If used properly, it does not cause death or seriously bodily harm.”
Proposal opponents want the police to focus on how they work with the mentally ill to avoid using lethal force.
The Police Commission said the opponents’ concerns were not without merit.
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