San Francisco almost hit the reset button late Wednesday on more than a decade of debate over arming officers with stun guns.
The Police Commission deadlocked on a motion to retake its November 2017 vote in favor of the devices, commonly known as Tasers. The motion from Commissioner Petra DeJesus failed 3-3 with one member absent.
DeJesus called for the revote after an outside panel found the commission violated open meeting laws when it decided 4-3 to roll out Tasers to the San Francisco Police Department by December 2018.
Officers still aren’t armed with the devices because a Board of Supervisors committee cut funding for the effort. But the committee placed $1 million on reserve for the department to purchase the weapons next fiscal year.
Last June, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force sustained three violations against the Police Commission over the Taser vote, in part because the commission voted without properly notifying the public after stopping a raucous meeting at City Hall and switching rooms.
“I think we need to retake this vote,” said DeJesus, who opposed Tasers in 2017. “I think we need transparency and I think we need to do this right.”
DeJesus said the task force does not have the teeth to make the commission redo the vote, “But if you want to do the right thing, that’s what we should do. We should correct it.”
Her failed attempt to retake the vote showed the division between the Board of Supervisors-elected members on the commission and those who were appointed by the mayor. A heated debate ensued at the meeting over whether the commission had violated any rules in the first place.
The motion would have affirmed the findings of the task force and had the Police Commission retake the Taser vote at a later date, once the SFPD finished implementing 272 recommendations for reform from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Commission President Bob Hirsch and Vice President Damali Taylor voted against the motion alongside Commissioner Dion-Jay Brookter. All three were appointed by the mayor.
Hirsch defended the decision of former President Julius Turman, who died last year before the task force decision, to move rooms.
“It was disruptive and it got to the point where the commission could not function,” Hirsch said. “We have a right and an obligation to actually meet and conduct the business of the commission.”
He said the commission was escorted out of the first room by deputies and blamed the Sheriff’s Department for locking some members of the public out of City Hall.
Commissioner John Hamasaki backed the findings of the task force but said at first that he would not support retaking the vote.
He changed his mind after public comment and joined DeJesus and Commissioner Cindy Elias, who were also appointed to the commission by the Board of Supervisors.
“What that will do is it will give all of us the time to do our due diligence, to do our homework,” Hamasaki said. “I’m not saying right now I would say yes or would say no [to Tasers].”
Two weeks ago, Hamasaki walked out of the meeting alongside Elias and DeJesus after Hirsch and Taylor were elected president and vice president.
Hamasaki accused them of being pawns of Mayor London Breed, which the mayoral appointees disputed.
The commissioners took up the Taser issue Wednesday after activist Magick Altman filed a complaint with the task force.
“This is an ethical and moral issue,” Altman told the commission.
If the commission had decided to retake the vote, it would have taken place before a largely changed body.
Only Hirsch, DeJesus and Commissioner Thomas Mazzucco were on the commission in 2017.
The commission would have also likely had to consider the fact that four people died in neighboring San Mateo County last year from police Tasers.