Taser debate reignites for San Francisco police 

The San Francisco Police Commission is discussing arming officers with Tasers nearly a year after the commission shot down a previous proposal to explore that possibility.

The Police Commission voted 4-3 last March against a proposal by then-Police Chief George Gascon to study the use of Taser stun guns by the department.

Since then, three new members have been appointed to the commission, and interim Police Chief Jeff Godown, who took over as the chief of the Police Department when Gascon was named San Francisco District Attorney last month, is hoping the commission's new makeup will result in a different approach to the Taser issue.

The vote at Wednesday's meeting would not authorize the use of Tasers, but would give the Police Department "permission to...go back and research the feasibility, cost, training and all other aspects of putting together a pilot program," Godown said.

After conducting initial research, the department would then have to go back to the commission at a later date to seek authorization to use the devices, he said.

Angela Chan, one of the new commissioners, said Tuesday that she has concerns about the effectiveness and safety of Tasers after having "done quite a bit of research on the issue."

Chan will be making a 45-minute presentation at tonight's meeting that will feature experts on studies involving Taser stun guns, including one that she said found that fatal officer-involved shootings more than doubled in the first year of stun gun implementation by police departments in California.

Chan also said she is "concerned that Tasers are not regulated by any government body."

The Police Department will also be giving a presentation at the meeting that Godown said will point out that "there are a large number of departments that use Tasers" as a less-than-lethal option without major problems.

Chan said the Police Department has to have many more discussions with the community before adopting the policy.

"It's good to have these conversations before the department adopts new weapons," Chan said.

The commission, with the assistance of Godown, adopted a plan earlier this month to create a new team within the Police Department to handle crisis situations involving the mentally ill.

The move came in the wake of two shootings of mentally ill suspects in December and January. Then-Chief Gascon said Tasers could have prevented serious injury or death in those cases.

The use of Tasers by the department is an issue that will likely be handled by the next permanent chief, who could be appointed as early as next month.

Chan said the commission, which is tasked with submitting up to three recommendations for a new police chief to Mayor Ed Lee, will be interviewing candidates over the next few weeks and hope to make their selections by March 15.

Wednesday's meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall.

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Friday, Apr 24, 2015

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