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Taser ballot measure fails in face of overwhelming opposition

A ballot measure creating new rules on when police can use stun guns appears to have failed as of late Tuesday night after facing opposition from city leaders and police commissioners who denounced the effort as anti-police reform.

Proposition H, from the San Francisco Police Officers Association, would have established an ordinance allowing officers to use Tasers in a wider range of circumstances than under a policy passed by the Police Commission in March.

Preliminary election results show more than 58 percent of voters rejected the measure.

A vast majority of city leaders, including the top cop of the San Francisco Police Department and Mayor Mark Farrell, who has in other cases supported the police union, rejected the measure.

Police reform advocates were critical of the more lenient policy included in the ballot measure. The measure would have allowed officers to use Tasers against suspects who are “actively resisting” rather than the higher standard of “violently resisting” set by the Police Commission policy.

Police Chief Bill Scott called the initiative the “antithesis” of police reform because it also ties the hands of the Police Commission. The policy cannot be changed without another decision at the ballot box or a four-fifths vote at the Board of Supervisors.

In his ballot argument, former SFPOA President Martin Halloran called the Police Commission policy a “politically driven policy that doesn’t protect San Franciscans.”

“For the benefit of our community and our neighborhood police, we need a practical Taser policy,” Halloran said, arguing that the measure would reduce police shootings and injuries to officers.

On the other side, critics have for years pointed out that Tasers can kill and tend to be used to enforce compliance rather than to avoid shootings.

Under Prop. H, officers would have been able to use Tasers whenever a subject is “actively resisting, assaultive, or exhibiting any action likely to result in serious bodily injury or death of another person, themselves or a police officer.”

Prop. H would have also required officers to complete training before using Tasers and to store defibrillators in police vehicles.

Controller Ben Rosenfield found the measure would have cost San Francisco $4.5 million to purchase Tasers and $200,000 a year for expenses related to training and equipment.

mbarba@sfexaminer.comCrimePolitics

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