Taser discussion moves forward at San Francisco Police Commission meeting

The San Francisco Police Commission is considering changes in the police use of force policy including the use of Tasers.

Both the police chief and the police officers union have submitted different proposals for arming officers with them.

On Wednesday night outside City Hall, a small group of protesters held signs and wrote their anti-Taser message on the sidewalk.
"Better training. Not so much division between the rich and the poor. People are desperate out there. People are crazy. We need more mental health services," said Martha Hubert with Code Pink. 

Inside City Hall, the Police Commission addressed and listened to protesters lined up to speak.

"This is the starting point for a conversation in San Francisco about what it looks like to re- engineer the use of force for this department," said Suzy Loftus, president of the San Francisco Police Commission.

Among the people who spoke against Tasers was Andrea Prichett with Berkeley Copwatch.

"Fundamentally if you put any weapon into the hands of a racist it's going to be used in a racist way."

People held up banners in protest of tasers and Police Chief Greg Suhr.

"I am not asking for the entire force to be equipped with Tasers. I'm asking for about five percent of our SWAT team and our specialist officers," said Chief Suhr.

But the San Francisco Police Officers Association is asking for every officer in the department to be armed with tasers.
"The majority of law enforcement agencies have Tasers. Our sheriff's department has Tasers," said Martin Halloran, president of the SFPOA.

The police union had asked for Tasers twice in 2009 and 2011. Both times, it was denied.

The union says the weapons may have prevented the police killing of Mario Woods, the African-American man killed in the Bayview District in December.
"It will cost money. The city has to decide the value of life and the lives that could have been saved," said Halloran.

He says officers need options between the use of a baton and a bullet when confronted with a potentially violent situation.

But opponents say Tasers will not prevent police violence nor do they address other reforms that are needed.
"It knocks the wind out of change so please take it off the table," said Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness.

The Police Commission says it will forward all proposals to the U.S. Department of Justice for review and recommendations. After that, there will be two community meetings before the Police Commission votes on a new policy, possibly by April.