Police Chief George Gascón may have backed down on his fight to bring Tasers to the San Francisco Police Department, but Mayor Gavin Newsom has not.
After a divided Police Commission rejected the controversial stun guns last week, Gascón said efforts to pass the initiative would go nowhere. But don’t count the zappers out just yet. Even if Gascón is moving on to other priorities, Newsom said it’s only a matter of time before the commission finally approves the stun guns.
“The Tasers are going to happen,” Newsom told The Examiner on Tuesday. “Mark my words. It will happen. The public wants it, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Newsom suggested rolling out the stun guns in a pilot program to gauge their effectiveness, but that would still require commission approval.
One of the surprising “no” votes came from a Newsom appointee. Commissioner Yvonne Lee made it very clear that her decision was not based on politics. She was concerned with how the devices could potentially be abused and show further distrust of police by the community.
Newsom called Lee a friend, but would not say whether she would be reappointed in spring.
“There’s a lot of pressure being placed on the Police Commission right now, a commission that can change, a commission that is not static,” he said. “We need to allow the dust to settle, and we’ll come back when we’re ready.”
Gascón has been the driving force behind equipping officers with Tasers, something he calls a “less-lethal weapon,” since he took over the department in August. A wide-ranging study of the SFPD by the Police Effectiveness Review Forum also suggested the use of stun guns.
As for the other opponents on the commission, Newsom said the issue had become another polarizing ideological debate between progressives and moderates, and he couldn’t help telling Gascón, “I told you all this,” referring to meetings the two had before the chief was sworn in.
Widely used weapon
15,100 Law enforcement agencies that use Tasers
471,000 Tasers sold
5,950 Agencies that make Tasers standard equipment
29 Cities out of 33 largest that use Tasers
$1,000 Estimated cost per officer for gun, cartridges and holster
1,931 Latest number of sworn SFPD officers
Sources: Taser International, SFPD