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KCBS In Depth: SFPD Chief Suhr On Chronic Drunks, Tasers For Officers

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A homeless man sleeps in San Francisco Civic Center. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A homeless man sleeps in San Francisco Civic Center. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – San Francisco law enforcement officials were set to begin a new program to deal with public drunkenness using a carrot-stick approach, said San Francisco’s police chief.

Chief Greg Suhr said the idea for its serial inebriate program is to get chronic drunks and drug abusers off the streets and into treatment programs.

Modeled after a successful program in San Diego, people cited for public drunkeness more than five times in thirty days would be given a choice between going to jail and entering a treatment program.

“I do think that those folks that are completely unable to care for themselves deserve a better shake than they’ve been getting … folks that are just completely out of it, you know lying in their own stuff, so swollen about the head that you can tell that it’s a poisoning situation and to just keep putting those folks out and out and out without any sort of relief, to me is just unkind,” said Suhr.

Conversely, Suhr has tabled another of his crime-fighting initiatives: arming the city’s police officers with stun guns. Earlier this month, he advised the Police Commission that there would be so many limitations on when and how officers would be allowed to use tasers that it could actually make some law enforcement situations less safe.

“The first request by Chief (Heather) Fong and Chief (George) Gascon was to arm the entire police department with tasers,” he added. “My ask was in compliance with the resolution that was prescribed prior to me being chief was for a pilot and I suggested that about 5% of the department get them, or about 100 officers.”

“Some of the restrictions so far would be excessively thin people with no real definition of excessively, young people who appear to be under the age of 13, pregnant women, some would say all women, people in elevated spaces, mentally ill people, people in crisis, people with a heart condition, anywhere near a flammable object, elevated area, on a bicycle and then more recently wet people,” said Suhr.

“It just got to the point where it appeared that the pilot was going to afford us a tool that we wouldn’t use and I polled my captains and I polled the officers I was asking to give them to, they just said hey I think it creates more pause which can create an officer safety problem or a public safety problem, it just seemed in the best interest of time and money to conceded the day.”

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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