Police Commission passes use of force policy for SFPD

Centering on de-escalation and the sanctity of life, the San Francisco Police Department’s new use of force policy was finally put into place Wednesday, which — among other controversial elements — will bar officers from shooting at moving vehicles.

But the more contentious part of the policy debated at the Police Commission on Wednesday night involved a last-minute reintroduction to allow officers to continue using the carotid hold, though commissioners ultimately voted to exclude that from the policy.

The process creating the first new use of force policy in more than two decades began earlier this year after police killed Mario Woods on Dec. 2, 2015.

But Wednesday night’s Police Commission meeting was also contentious due to the failed reintroduction to the policy of the carotid hold, seemingly at the last moment.

“The carotid is archaic,” said Commissioner Petra DeJesus, who asked why the policy seemed to have be altered at the last moment. “I didn’t have knowledge or info about it.”

Commissioner Thomas Mazzucco replied by saying the commission had been confused between carotid holds and choke holds. One restricts blood flow and the other airflow.

Banning the carotid hold, as well as banning shooting at moving vehicles, were both recommendations from the federal Department of Justice’s review of the Police Department, which Mayor Ed Lee has promised to implement.

The Police Officers Association had opposed both bans. The nearly six-month negotiation over the new policy resulted in an impasse last month because of disagreements over the ban on shooting at cars.

The union may now proceed with legal action over the ban on shooting at cars.

But carotid hold was at center stage for much of the meeting. Many public commenters feared the replacement of the carotid could be stun guns.

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