San Francisco’s Police Department will not be able to equip its officers with Tasers as planned after the funding to buy the devices was cut Monday by a Board of Supervisors committee.
The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee voted 3-2 Monday to remove the $2 million in Mayor Mark Farrell’s two-year budget proposal for the Police Department to purchase Tasers in the upcoming fiscal year. An additional $1 million in the subsequent fiscal year was placed on reserve as well.
Supervisor Sandra Fewer made the motion to cut the Taser funding, with the support of Supervisors Norman Yee and committee chair Supervisor Malia Cohen. Supervisors Jeff Sheehy and Catherine Stefani opposed the cut.
The vote means the department will not be able to buy the controversial devices, even though the Police Commission has voted to equip the officers with Tasers and the department had plans to start using them in December.
Fewer said she was concerned the $3 million wasn’t the true cost of equipping all the officers with the Tasers, only some of them, and that it would increase over time. She also said she was worried training was not yet complete and that the department needed more time to implement reforms recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We want to get everyone on board for training first and then we can implement this. I don’t think we are ready to,” Fewer said.
Stefani said that she opposed the cut because “I have always supported less lethal alternatives for our police officers.”
Police Chief Bill Scott argued against the cut. He said he wanted “to roll them out in all 10 district stations starting with patrol, not to every officer in the district stations. We want it to be distributed across the city and to do that incrementally.”
The department estimates it can purchase Tasers at $1,600 apiece.
The Police Officers Association brought a ballot measure to voters in June that would have required The City to fund the purchase of Tasers for deployment by December. The measure was defeated by nearly 62 percent of voters.
The committee is making cuts to the mayor’s budget proposal and will then use the money to fund other spending priorities. Those decisions are expected to occur Wednesday.
The Police Department has attempted for more than a decade to equip its officers with Tasers, but has repeatedly met with strong opposition from community members who argue that Tasers are potentially lethal and used far more frequently than guns.
Despite this opposition, the Police Commission, voted late last year to authorize their use and earlier this year approved a policy for their deployment. But without funding, the department can’t buy them.
“Ultimately, if the board doesn’t fund Tasers, the Police Commission’s policy will essentially be dormant until the board approves funding,” Deputy City Attorney Jon Givner told the committee.