San Francisco Public Hearings Tackle Tasers, Use of Force After Death of Mario Woods

The first of several public hearings on proposals to reform the San Francisco Police Department’s use-of-force policies kicks off on Thursday, in the wake of the shooting death of 20-year-old Mario Woods, who was killed in December by police.

Some want to arm officers with Tasers and stun guns in light of the fatal officer-involved shooting captured on video.

At a hearing Thursday morning dedicated to de-escalation practices at the Board of Supervisor’s Rules Committee, Supervisor Malia Cohen said: “Tasers still kill people. I’m not interested in arming law enforcement with another tool that could harm a person even though it is considered a non-lethal weapon. I’m looking to ensure officers have crisis intervention training, know how to deal with folks with mental breaks. “

Cohen said there have been 37 officer-involved shootings since 2007 – all deemed justified. Several supervisors have called the department’s use of force policies outdated, they haven’t changed since 1995.

The president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association Marty Halloran said that more than 150 officers showed up Wednesday night in support of Chief Greg Suhr, who has come under attack following the Woods’ shooting. Halloran said officers are open to alternative uses of force, adding that if police had been armed with Tasers, Woods might still be alive.

“There are many alternative less lethal force options available and they POA has already offered suggestions to the department and to the Police Commission,” Cohen said. “These alternative forms of less lethal [force] must have a sound policy and procedure in place before they can be deployed and they must not put my members into a risky situation where they could be seriously injured.”

The first hearing will start at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Third Baptist Church at 1399 McAllister St. The next hearing is set for Jan. 26 at the Bayview YMCA at 1601 Lane St. The next is set for Jan. 27 at an unscheduled location.

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