A day after San Francisco’s police chief called the police union’s ballot measure on arming officers with Tasers the “antithesis” of department reform, Mayor Mark Farrell has endorsed the measure.
Farrell, a political ally of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said Thursday he supported the ballot measure because the Police Commission has taken too long to approve a policy for officers to use Tasers. The ballot measure would fast track a policy for equipping officers with the controversial devices.
“It would be great if the Police Commission would act on a policy, they’ve had it in front of them for months but have not done anything,” Farrell told the San Francisco Examiner. “Until such time as our Police Commission approves a policy that will get implemented, I will be supporting that ballot measure.”
Farrell backed the ballot measure after San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday came out against the measure because it would tie the hands of the Police Commission.
Both the mayor and chief are proponents of Tasers, but Scott said the measure would create a policy that the Police Commission could not substantially change without approval from the voters or the Board of Supervisors.
Scott said that is against the spirit of reforms recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice, which launched a review of SFPD in early 2016 after the controversial police shooting of Mario Woods.
Farrell and Scott both downplayed their difference of opinion after standing side-by-side at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t want to make a bigger issue than this is because it’s not an issue for me,” Scott told the Examiner. “This mayor lets me do my job and at the end of the day he’s all about public safety so it’s my job to give the best advice, he’s the mayor, he does his job. So we’re doing what we have to do. We have a good system here.”
Farrell said he still has “1,000 percent” confidence in Scott, who a consultant for the police union called “a shill for City Hall” because of his stance on the ballot measure.
“At the end of the day we may have a slight disagreement in terms of process, but the bottom line is even on this issue we agree on the ultimate outcome, so to me it’s a small matter,” Farrell said.
For critics, the ballot measure is not a small matter since it would roll out a policy allowing officers to use Tasers for “resolving encounters with subjects who are actively resisting, assaultive, or exhibiting any action likely to result in serious bodily injury or death of another person, themselves or a police officer.”
SFPOA President Martin Halloran praised Farrell’s support for the ballot measure in a message to members, calling him a “reasonable voice.” At the same time, he said Scott “took a disappointing and disastrous leap backwards.”
“Unfortunately, the Chief allowed himself to be played like a cheap fiddle by some on the Police Commission who have their own agenda,” Halloran wrote. “He should get rid of whoever is advising him – otherwise, he is going to drive an irreparable wedge between himself and the membership.”
Halloran also applauded the Board of Supervisors’ decision back in January to remove London Breed as acting mayor and to replace her with Farrell until the June election.
Farrell and the police union shared an advisor, Nate Ballard, until Ballard temporarily stepped away from advising the SFPOA to avoid a conflict of interest.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she was proud of Scott for wanting to implement stun guns “in a way that is consistent with the reform efforts underway.”
“I thought that was a very brave move on his part,” Ronen, who is against arming officers with Tasers, told the Examiner. “I thought that was a very wise move on his part and I’m disappointed the mayor is not backing him up.”
Farrell called on the Police Commission to vote on a Taser policy at their next meeting. Last November, the Police Commission voted in favor of arming officers with Tasers by the end of 2018, but has yet to create a policy for officers to follow.
“I certainly hope that they act at their next meeting,” Farrell said.
Police Commission President Julius Turman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink
This story has been updated with additional information.