The San Francisco Police Department’s use of force tactics and policies will be re-evaluated, after last week’s fatal shooting of a knife-carrying man by several officers in the Bayview, officials said.
The proposed changes come on the heels of the killing of Mario Woods, 26, who died at the hands of five police officers. The incident was captured on video by witnesses and shared across social media.
The changes are expected to include the distribution of protective shields to officers, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.
The department already has some 60 riot shields — the kind of tools that are often used by sheriff’s departments for jailhouse cell extractions and are part of the model used in the United Kingdom to detain suspects with edged weapons, Suhr said.
The plan would be to distribute six to each police station. “We don’t want to put out any tool without any training,” Suhr said. “That’s what we’re doing right now.”
Mayor Ed Lee said The City is “moving fast.” “Since last week the chief has already [begun instituting] significant changes for when and how officers use their firearms and increasing mandatory, recurring training on de-escalating skills,” Lee said. “Our police department will have at least as much training in de-escalation as we do in the use of force,” he said.
Suhr also expects to call for equipping officers with Tasers, or stun guns, as a less-lethal alternative to firearms — a move which has been hotly contested at the Police Commission and Board of Supervisors over the years.
The Woods shooting has caused some to question how police respond to suspects who are armed with knives. Some media agencies have contrasted how the Woods incident was handled in San Francisco, compared to how a similar incident was dealt with in the United Kingdom. In the UK, a video recently surfaced of London police taking down a man who’d allegedly stabbed several victims — but those officers were able to bring the suspect under control without firearms.
“If we had a Taser in this situation,” Suhr said, referring to the Woods shooting. “I think it would have ended much like it did in London on Saturday.”
San Francisco police reportedly used bean bag guns and pepper spray against Woods before fatally shooting him.
The addition of more less-lethal options will require changes to department policy and will be discussed at the upcoming Police Commission meeting, Suhr said.
“I’ve also directed the Police Commission to do a thorough review of all existing policies regarding use of force to make it perfectly clear that the department’s policy is that using lethal force is a last resort,” Lee said. “This might require fundamentally revising the department’s policy.”
Suhr said the names of the officers who shot and killed Woods will be released by the end of the week. The five officers are currently on administrative leave.
Three of the officers on scene at the Woods shooting were trained in Crisis Intervention Training, Suhr said, which means they have knowledge of de-escalation techniques.
Suhr was accompanied by Mayor Ed Lee at City Hall when he announced the upcoming changes to department tactics and policy Monday.
Three investigations into the shooting are already underway.
“I saw the video, I found it very upsetting as many did, and it raised a lot of questions,” Lee said. “We owe all of San Francisco, communities of color and the Woods family a full and transparent investigation without delay.”
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