Shooting revives stun gun debate

Last weekend’s fatal shooting of a man by a San Francisco police officer prompted officials to call for cops to be armed with stun guns.

An unidentified man was shot and killed by a police officer Sunday after a confrontation that reportedly involved the man displaying a gun. Police had initially responded to a noise complaint at Sutter and Hyde streets in the Tenderloin around 11:15 a.m. Sunday.

The incident, which is under investigation, has renewed efforts to arm officers with stun guns.

“I think we should at least go forward and study this and see what’s worked in other cities,” Newsom said the day after the fatal
shooting.

San Francisco officials have previously proposed using stun guns.

In March, the Police Commission shot down a plan by Chief George Gascón to develop a policy on stun guns, the first step in his fight to equip officers with the weapons.

Commissioners objected to the price tag. It would cost the SFPD as much as $2 million to equip the force with stun guns, although the chief has said he would look for alternative ways to pay for the stun guns.

Newsom, however, said he’s hoping that his recent nomination to the Police Commission — James Slaughter — will shift the balance of power and put the issue back on the agenda.

On Thursday, supervisors will consider whether to confirm Slaughter for the commission. The San Francisco attorney would not comment on his position regarding stun guns, but said he looks forward to talking about his views with supervisors later this week.

San Francisco police would not comment on the Sunday shooting, but Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the chief is still pushing stun guns as a viable alternative for officers.

There’s controversy surrounding the use of stun guns.

Kelli Evans, associate director of the ACLU, said stun guns are not a simple alternative to firearms. She said that in recent months there have been several stun gun-related deaths in California.

“They can assist officers in high-risk incidents, but only in a police department with stringent training, adequate safeguards, strong accountability systems and a high degree of transparency, and San Francisco just isn’t there yet,” Evans said.

In January, Gascón released a report that found that at least a half-dozen officer-involved shootings in the past five years would have been avoided if police were armed with stun guns.

He has said in the past that he would need the support of the Police Commission to implement a stun gun policy in the department.

“The chief is still considering Tasers and those types of weapons down the road,” Andraychak said.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

Officer-involved gunfire

Shooting incidents from 2005 to 2009 were analyzed in a report commissioned by the police chief.

15 Officer-involved shootings
8 Shootings in which suspect was killed
14 Incidents in which drugs or alcohol use by suspect likely played a factor
3 Suspects who possessed a bladed weapon
13 Incidents in which suspect was shot in first five minutes following police arrival

Source: San Francisco Police Department

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