A new San Francisco police union advertisement opposing a new rule that bars officers from shooting at cars is being called “misinformation” by the head of the Police Commission.
The advertisement depicts an angry man driving his truck towards a crowd and a nearby police officer hesitating to pull his pistol in order to stop the dangerous truck. Meanwhile, a voice tells the ad’s audience that under a new policy San Francisco police will be barred from shooting at moving vehicles in such cases.
The ad then cuts to images of Nice, France following the fatal July car attack that left 86 dead. (It failed to point out that while French police shot and killed the driver, he still managed to kill scores of people.)
A YouTube clip of the advertisement was posted on the union’s website late Wednesday and, in a particularly strident section, a voiceover notes that if the policy is passed “many will die and be injured.”
The “public service announcement,” as it’s been called by the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association, is the latest of many such paid advertisements the union has put on television and radio to make sure the public knows where it stands on such issues.
But Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, who is also named in the advertisements as the person most responsible for the new policy, says allegations made in the ad are simply not true.
“This is a campaign of misinformation designed to mislead people as to the fundamental facts involved,” Loftus wrote in a text message to the San Francisco Examiner.
“The facts matter here – this policy was borrowed from [the New York Police Department] and countless other law enforcement agencies who instituted a ban on shooting at cars decades ago,” she said. “It is proven to reduce lethal shootings by up to 33 percent and reduce incidents where officers’ lives are in danger.”
While the ad cites a 2003 case in San Francisco where Officer Reggie Scott shot an unarmed man in a car who had pinned another officer, it did not mention the fact that in the past decade, the second most common police shootings involved similar incidents in which police repeatedly say they had to shoot at a vehicle because it was either pinning an officer or coming toward them.
In late October, a man was shot in San Francisco because Daly City police and a California Highway Patrol officer said he as coming at them with the car, although witnesses countered he was simply trying to maneuver the vehicle into a parking place. Similarly, in 2014 an officer was shot by a colleague who was shooting at a moving car.
The most recent fatal shooting by San Francisco police — in May — involved a moving car.
In June, the San Francisco Police Commission unanimously passed a new set of policies governing when and how officers can use force. The policies were part of a package of reforms meant to limit the number of fatal interactions with police.
The policy barred the use of a controversial carotid neck hold, as well as other tweaks meant to create a culture where the sanctity of life is a central plank of policing. The policy also made it so officers would be barred from shooting at cars unless the person inside was shooting at them from the car, but includes an exception for extraordinary circumstances such as a Nice-like attack.
Since then the union and The City have been engaged in meet and confer over the implementation of these new rules. But those negotiations broke down late last month over one part of the new policy in particular: shooting at cars.
“We are insistent that our members be allowed to use appropriate force in protecting the public when confronting crazed individuals who use vehicles to inflict mass casualties,” said POA President Martin Halloran in a statement posted with the YouTube video.
“These horrific incidents have occurred in Nice, France this past July and most recently at Ohio State University,” he continued. “The Department of Homeland Security has shared vital information with law enforcement showing that terrorists are being trained to use vehicles as weapons against innocent citizens. Our officers must not be hindered when confronting these most extreme and exceptional circumstances.”
Meanwhile, The City has yet to decide whether they will bring in an outside arbiter to make a call over the conflict with the POA.