The main entrance of the San Francisco Police Officers Association office. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

SF police union to make last push for Taser ballot measure

The San Francisco police union is fighting to the finish line for a ballot measure that would create a new policy for the use of stun guns despite wide-ranging opposition from City Hall and civil liberties activists.

San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya on Tuesday called for at least 100 officers to hand out literature in favor of Proposition H in the Union Street area and in the Sunset and Richmond districts over the weekend.

“It was very apparent from our recent contract negotiations that some at City Hall simply do not respect police officers in this city,” Montoya wrote in a letter to union members. “We need to fight for ourselves.”

The union began gathering signatures to place the measure on the ballot before the Police Commission passed a policy for the use of Tasers in March.

Police officials plan to roll out Tasers by the end of the year regardless of the ballot measure. The measure is not about arming officers with Tasers, but overriding the Police Commission policy with less-restrictive rules for their use.

Montoya urged officers to display a “show of force” for the measure because he said the Police Commission policy would restrict the use of stun guns “to the point where our officers will be hesitant to even utilize them.”

“The policy will also give the police department and the Police Commission wide discretion to discipline you, and the ability to second guess you every time you utilize this less than lethal option,” Montoya told the officers.

Montoya described the commission’s Taser policy as restrictive “with language that appears in no other city in America when regarding an officers ability to use or not use the device.”

But Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus said that is simply not the case.

“Proposition H’s path to the ballot is peppered with lies and omissions,” DeJesus said in a text message. “I trust the San Francisco voters can see through this duplicity and turn down this dangerous policy.”

The Police Commission policy requires an “immediate physical threat” before an officer can use a Taser. DeJesus said the San Jose Police Department has used the same language in its policy since 2010.

“The union prefers that officers can tase at will, even when the officer is not facing any immediate threat,” DeJesus said.

Montoya did not respond to a request for an interview.

The union has largely gone to bat for the measure on its own despite having the endorsements of politicians including state Sen. Scott Wiener, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy and former Supervisor Angela Alioto, a candidate for mayor.

Mayor Mark Farrell, an ardent police supporter who shared a political consultant with the union before becoming mayor, withdrew his backing for the measure after the Police Commission approved its policy. Police Chief Bill Scott and most members of the Board of Supervisors have come out against the measure.

The union has supplied the vast majority of the more than $439,000 contributed to the Prop. H campaign as of Thursday, contributing $348,459 directly and $51,112 through the SFPOA Issues Political Action Committee.

Campaign finance records also show that contributions include $10,000 each from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 6, Northern California Carpenters Regional Issues PAC and the San Francisco Laborers Local 261, as well as $1,000 from San Francisco socialite Dede Wilsey.

Meanwhile, opponents have ramped up their efforts to defeat the measure with more than $85,000 contributed to the campaign against Prop. H, which is largely funded by the ACLU of Northern California.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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