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Court rejects SFPOA appeal in lawsuit over use of force policy

An appeal by the San Francisco police union seeking to force the city back into arbitration over a use of force policy approved in 2016 that prohibits officers from shooting at moving vehicles was rejected this week.

A California Court of Appeal decision on Wednesday upheld a February 2017 decision by a lower court to deny a petition by the San Francisco Police Officers Association to compel arbitration.

The union filed a lawsuit in December of 2016 shortly after the Police Commission approved the use of force policy.

SEE RELATED: City Attorney’s Office responds to SFPOA lawsuit

The city had declared an impasse in October of 2016 after four months of negotiation over the policy, in which they were able to reach agreement on many items but remained at odds over the prohibition on shooting at moving vehicles. The union, which also objected to a ban on the use of a restraint technique referred to as a carotid hold, sought exceptions for the policy under circumstances such as terrorist attacks when vehicles are being used as weapons.

The lawsuit alleged the declaration of an impasse was premature and constituted an unfair labor practice.

Police reform advocates have cited the lawsuit as evidence that the union is seeking to obstruct efforts to reform police practices in the department, which has come under criticism for a series of police shootings and two separate scandals involving racist text messages exchanged by officers.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Thursday said that policy decisions about when a police officer may use force “are the exclusive responsibility of the Police Commission.”

“That authority comes from the California Constitution and cannot be delegated or bargained away,” Herrera said in a statement. “We’re pleased that yet another court has unequivocally ruled in the City’s favor on this issue. It is appropriate that the Police Commission – a publicly accountable oversight body – makes the delicate policy decisions about when an officer may use force.”

SFPOA President Tony Montoya on Thursday said he was discussing the decision with his board and general counsel and had no comment.

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