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SFPD Chief Greg Suhr Drops Tasers for San Francisco
by carol harvey
Friday Apr 12th, 2013 12:33 PM
San Franciscans working from 2004 to 2013 to keep tasers out of SFPD officers' hands as they 'talk down' people in public crisis are today celebrating SFPD Chief, Greg Suhr's Wed/ April 10 decision to drop his 'less-lethal' taser proposal for San Francisco cops.
San Franciscans working from 2004 to 2013 to keep tasers out of SFPD officers' hands as they 'talk down' people in public crisis are today celebrating SFPD Chief, Greg Suhr's Wed/ April 10 decision to drop his 'less-lethal' taser proposal for San Francisco cops.

Said Coalition on Homelessness' Lisa Marie Alatorre, “We are super-thrilled at the decision made at last night's Commission meeting to withdraw the proposal for tasers for SFPD Crisis Intervention Teams.“

In her Thursday, April 11, 2013 Chronicle article, 'Police Chief Greg Suhr Drops Stun Gun Plan,' Vivian Ho quoted Suhr. “Constraints put on the officers” by citizen suggestions “are so onerous” “they would be reticent to use the Tasers at all. Limitations on the pilot program suggested by the public would have been more harmful than helpful.”

ABClocal's Heather Ishimaru and Amy Hollyfield reported, “Suhr says the constraints...included everything from young people, old people, people in crisis, the mentally ill, wet people, and people near roadways. Officers pausing to consider all this might put them and the public more at risk.”

Ho quoted Suhr, "I still feel that we have a moral obligation to afford our officers something less lethal than a gun." … "I am still mystified, frankly, that we couldn't seem to make those who don't understand understand that we were asking for something short of a firearm."

“Those who don't understand” believe “something short of a firearm” should be Crisis Intervention Team Training, proved by de-escalation experts to be highly effective over weapons, lethal or nonlethal. South Station officer Mary Godfrey's July 2012 shooting of Pralith Pralourng, a mentally ill man who cut a co-worker --- non-fatally --- precipitated Suhr's taser proposal. During a recent Tenderloin community forum, trainer Laura Guzman demonstrated steps illustrating that talking down someone with a gun or a knife, “Is very do-able.”

Idriss Stelley Foundation Program Director, Jeremy Miller affirmed, “Chief Suhr made the right decision. But, the true decision wasn’t whether to request issuance of Tasers to police officers, but whether he could get away with abjectly defying the will of the people of San Francisco, not to mention statistics, logic, ethics, current jurisprudence, and economics.

“As regards that petty, resentful man,” Police Officer Association head, Gary Delagnes, saying “the continual liberal nonsense spewed by some police commissioners” is 'causing more deaths' because they don't subscribe to tasers 'like virtually every other city in America' --- is astounding and unfounded. The Police Commission should be commended for engaging this issue seriously in a manner that befits their political responsibility. Tasers torture and kill. They are unaccountable weapons for unaccountable officers.

“But, it was the People of San Francisco who forced Suhr’s hand, not the Commission. This should be celebrated,” he insisted.

Said Mesha Irizarry, police brutality expert whose son was shot by cops 48 times during a mental breakdown in 2001, “'the Power of People” and 'grassroots action' won this [decade-long] battle against tasers.”

PAST TASER HISTORY

In 2004, under Chief Heather Fong, an officer agreed to be tasered before San Francisco police commissioners. A No-Taser task force headed by Ella Baker Center, Idriss Stelley Foundation and Northern California ACLU soon convinced the SF Police Commission to shelve plans to buy tasers.

Next, George Gascón pushed for the stun guns he introduced as Mesa, Arizona Chief. According to Irizarry, Gascon's review of five years of officer-involved shootings concluded tasers could have saved one third of the victims .

Angela Chan and Petra Dejesus convinced fellow Police Commissioners they needed more research time. On Feb. 17, 2010, they voted against adopting tasers.

Interim Chief Jeff Godown re-introduced the taser push.

On Feb. 23, 2011 the Commission voted 6 to 1 on a Resolution authorizing the Chief of Police, and two police Commissioners “to develop a proposal” to modify “DGO [Department General Order] 5.01, 'use of force' and DGO 10.02 'equipment',” “investigate and evaluate Conducted Energy Devices [tasers] and all other less lethal weapons,” and” finally, “recommend a proposal for a pilot deployment program.” This was to be done “in consultation with communities of color, mental health professionals, LGBT and other key segments of the community.”

RECENT TASER HISTORY – BUILDING BLOCKS ONE BY ONE

The current debate began August 1, 2012, when Commission meeting public commenters rebuffed Chief Suhr's taser re-proposal. The Idriss Stelley Foundation and the Coalition on Homelessness formed Anti-Taser / Pro-CIT groups, later joined by Hospitality House, San Francisco Mental Health Association, Gray Panthers, Poor Magazine, CUAV, San Francisco Bayview Newspaper, Officers For Justice and many other groups.

Supervisor Eric Mar phoned Irizarry saying, “I just sent an open letter to the Police Commission expressing my strong opposition to tasers for SFPD.”

In its Oct. 17, 2012 meeting at the 6th St. South of Market Recreation Center, to fulfill the Feb. 23, 2011 Resolution to reach out to communities of color, mental health professionals, LGBT and other key segments of the community,” the Police Commission planned three community forums, all cancelled without notice.

In 2013, Chief Suhr and the Commission resurrected the forums held January 22 in the Fillmore District's Hamilton Recreation Center, February 4 in the Richmond District's Scottish Rite Center, and February 11 at the Bayview Opera House. Community response was overwhelmingly anti-taser.

The Anti-Taser / Pro-C.I.T. group collected 24 letters against tasers from the mental health community.

Irizarry and Miller presented the Mental Health Board with a resolution discouraging taser use against people in public mental crisis. Board members passed the Resolution 9 to 2 on Nov. 14, 2012.

After Irizarry and Miller approached San Francisco City Supervisors' aides, John Avalos proposed a Dec. 5, 2012 Public Safety Committee taser hearing. Both public comments and Avalos, Campos, Mar and Olague's statements aligned perfectly with attorney Micaela Davis' Dec. 4, ACLU letter urging Mayor Ed Lee, to “reject any SFPD proposal to deploy Tasers or other conductive energy devices.”

In February, Idriss Stelley advocates addressed the Youth Commission Executive Committee. Said Irizarry, “Even conservative elements “were excited about it,” voting 10 to 1 in favor of the resolution. The Commission extended four unanswered invitations to SFPD top brass to present their position on tasers. On the day of the resolution at 2:00 p.m., Irizarry recalls that Suhr sent a message to Youth Commission Executive Director, Mario Yedidia, saying, 'We do not feel it necessary at this point to approach your Commission about tasers.' During the 5:30 p.m. session, the resolution was approved. Suspicions are that Suhr's snub won the Youth Commission vote.

During a fourth grassroots organized Tenderloin taser forum, District 6 Supervisor, Jane Kim, came out publicly against tasers.

PEOPLES' VICTORY

Irizarry and Alatorre agree “This was a Peoples' Victory.”

Said Irizarry, “Organizers put in thousands of hours working constituency by constituency, citizen by citizen, capitalizing on each small victory until the big victory is achieved. But, unless citizens came to express their concerns very vocally, the organizers wouldn't have got anywhere. Elders and disabled people in wheelchairs left the comfort of their warm homes on cold winter evenings to say, “'Do Not Do This! No Tasers!”

Alatorre saw a huge win for the People – homeless people, mental illness survivors, Youth, those concerned about human rights, poverty and economic issues.

“It's exciting that we showed huge momentum --- that we showed up at these forums and made sense. It's interesting what Vivian Ho's 'completely biased' Chronicle article does NOT say.”

She felt People Power gathering force through the forums exposed the SFPD's “ineptness.” The People knew the answers! Were smarter! They got it!”

WILL SFPD TRY AGAIN FOR TASERS?

Though Alatorre termed tasers 'dead,” she was leery about another weapon proposal. Ho quoted Suhr and Turman insisting they still need a 'less-lethal' option.

Irizarry surmised one department using tasers could weasel electroshock devices into another department's action. Hamilton forum commenters cited the medical student targeted in 2007 by SFPD and Sheriff's deputies in a North Beach tasing.

LESS-LETHAL WEAPON OF CHOICE: CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAMS

“The community expects an SFPD commitment on implementing fully and embodying Crisis Intervention Teams,” said Alatorre, stressing 'Teams.'

Coalition Executive Director, Jennifer Friedenbach emphasized throughout these forums that police have taken baby steps toward the C.I.T. program.

The Department, naturally attuned to weapons, command and control, has not institutionally internalized the crisis intervention team ethos, creating the expected 'Cultural Shift' within SFPD.

Irizarry said blonde Mary Godfrey, Pralourng's 'assassin,' was C.I.T. certified. In April 2012, the Commission gave Godfrey a bronze medal for good police work. In July, she shot Pralourng at close range twice in the chest. “SFPD has a long way to go on Crisis Intervention Team trainings,” said Irizarry.

A spring Grassroots Castro-Mission Community Forum will tackle ways to shift SFPD focus from weapons to C.I.T.

LET THE PUBLIC VIEW C.I.T. TRAINING

Irizarry proposes opening C.I.T. trainings to public view where concerned citizens can see with their own eyes how C.I.T. works. “This would reverse public antagonisms, growing distrust and disrespect toward SFPD and help people see police in a positive way.”

TASER MORATORIUM PROPOSAL

Irizarry notes, “Three times we defeated Taser International's SFPD contract. “Enough is enough.” We do not need to waste woman-man power, energy and time beating that dead horse. It is indecent that, with each new Mayoral or police appointment, top brass see an open door to a taser debate revival.”

Provided the electorate has current information on the brutality of tasers, she wants to look into a San Francisco taser moratorium. “In San Francisco smoke shops, you can even buy cute little neon-colored tasers for children and women that are quite powerful.” There is a lot of education to do before introducing the moratorium concept.

Vermonters are petitioning for a taser moratorium, she said.

“A BRUTAL BEGINNING”

Jeremy Miller describes,”an incredibly brutal beginning of 2013, with multiple SFPD Officer-Involved-Shootings, and an even larger amount of extra-judicial malicious use of force. Maybe some more of the extraordinary $510,759,590 million 2013 / 2014 budget for SFPD should go to non-violent de-escalation training, better psychological evaluations of potential officers, and restitution/victims services for those who have borne the brunt of SFPD atrocities. San Francisco’s populace has mandated that the City does better. Time to get to work.”
§San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr Drops Taser Proposal
by carol harvey Sunday Apr 14th, 2013 7:09 AM
Police Chief Greg Suhr's proposal to put tasers in the hands of cops talking people out of public crisis is met with powerful opposition by San Franciscans

For the fourth time in a decade, San Franciscans are celebrating yet another victory in blocking a new police chief's attempt to arm San Francisco cops with tasers. On Wed, April 10, 2013 SFPD Chief, Greg Suhr withdrew his proposal to allow elite Crisis Intervention Teams to use stun guns to talk down people in public crisis on City streets.

Following the July 2012 officer-involved shooting death of a mentally ill man who cut a co-worker non-fatally, Suhr asked the Police Commission to approve tasers as a weapon 'less lethal” than a gun. Suhr said he felt a “moral obligation” to ask the Commission to “afford our officers something short of a firearm” so both they and the public would face reduced risk.

Four previous police Chiefs, Heather Fong in 2004, George Gascon in 2010, and Jeff Godown in 2011, met with solid public opposition in their attempts to revive the taser option.

Finally, a Feb. 23, 2011 Resolution voted 6 to 1 by the Commission directed a subcommittee to work with the police Department in researching less-lethal options to guns, only one of which was tasers. It also mandated outreach to gather citizen input, “in consultation with communities of color, mental health professionals, LGBT and other key segments of the community” toward recommending a proposal for a pilot deployment program.

Four community forums were held in early 2013, three called by the Chief and the Commission and one organized by a grassroots effort in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco where the majority of public incidents involving people in mental health crisis occur. Community response continued to be overwhelmingly anti-taser.

Public testimony disclosed 781 taser-related U.S. deaths.

University of California San Francisco medical researchers and Taser International itself disclosed that tasers were relatively safe for thick body mass individuals, but could damage or kill small body mass young and elderly people, people with cardiac problems and diabetes, and fetuses in pregnant women. Tased individuals balancing on ledges or balconies could fall to their deaths. People wet from rain or standing in water could be electrocuted. An elevated number of taser deaths were reported among the mentally ill, primarily people in crisis --- the original target population.

After the fourth forum disclosed 99% of public commenters strongly against tasers, Suhr stated publicly that “Constraints put on the officers” by citizen suggestions “are so onerous” “they would be reticent to use the Tasers at all. Limitations on the pilot program suggested by the public would have been more harmful than helpful.

"I still feel that we have a moral obligation to afford our officers something less lethal than a gun." … "I am still mystified, frankly, that we couldn't seem to make those who don't understand understand that we were asking for something short of a firearm."

The people “who don't understand,” seemed to be San Franciscans present at the forums who believe “something short of a firearm” should be Crisis Intervention Team Training, shown by de-escalation experts to be highly effective over weapons, lethal or nonlethal. During the Tenderloin community forum, Crisis Intervention trainer Laura Guzman demonstrated steps illustrating that talking down someone with a gun or a knife, “Is very do-able.”

Said Mesha Irizarry, police brutality expert whose son, Idriss Stelley, was shot by cops 48 times during a mental breakdown in 2001, “'the Power of People” and 'grassroots action' won this [decade-long] battle against tasers.”

Irizarry gave an appreciative nod to the many organizations involved in the no-taser effort, The Idriss Stelley Foundation, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, Hospitality House, San Francisco Mental Health Association and Mental Health Board, Gray Panthers, Officers For Justice, the ACLU of Northern California, and others.

“Organizers put in thousands of hours working constituency by constituency, citizen by citizen,” she said. “But, unless citizens came to express their concerns very vocally, the organizers wouldn't have got anywhere. Elders and disabled people in wheelchairs left the comfort of their warm homes on cold winter evenings to say, “'Do Not Do This! No Tasers!”

Idriss Stelley Foundation Program Director, Jeremy Miller congratulated The Police Commission saying it, “should be commended for engaging this issue seriously in a manner that befits their political responsibility. But, it was the People of San Francisco who forced Suhr’s hand, not the Commission,”

Miller addressed the growing concern, verified by a cursory scan of You Tube videos, that more and more often tasers are being casually abused nationwide by police and security officers for pain compliance.

“Tasers torture and kill,” warned Miller. “They are unaccountable weapons for unaccountable officers.”

Memphis, Reno, and San Francisco are the only U.S. cities where police do not have tasers. San Francisco is a huge loss for Taser International, financially and politically.

Irizarry noted, “Three times we defeated Taser International's SFPD contract. “Enough is enough.” After the electorate is educated on the brutality of tasers, she will explore a taser moratorium for San Francisco like the Vermont petition.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Richardson
Monday Apr 15th, 2013 5:08 AM
The majority of tasing deaths are caused by negligent and careless officers who don’t follow the manufacturers’ warnings. The manufactures of High Voltage Dart Guns cautions that these high voltage weapons have a high risk of killing humans if they are improperly used. These are some of the warnings that the manufactures have issued: Don’t tase a person in the chest or those that have cognitive disorders or pregnant or have cardiac or pulmonary conditions or pacemakers or epileptic seizures or sickle cell or under the influence of drugs (prescription or otherwise) or alcohol intoxicated. Hundreds of deaths have also been caused from head injuries as a result of falling due to the high voltage paralyzing and rendering the victims helpless and sometimes unconscious. Most all of these deaths are also due to careless and negligent users. Jail and prison deaths from head injuries are very high because of so much steel present in those buildings. As observed in dozens of live videos: police, deputies, correctional officers, border patrol, etc. have never attempted to break the victims' falls. Officers that where standing in positions that could have caught the falling subjects side stepped possibly because they were afraid of the high voltage. Many officers believe that tasing is harmless because of what they experienced in training centers. In the U.S.A., we use a medium voltage version that generates only 20,000 volts and the voltage only last for 2 seconds for officer certification. They implemented these toy guns because so many candidates were requiring medical aid after being tased. Officers prefer tasing because it is not regulated, and they feel a lot of control over their victims. Officers that have been involved in killings or have a high frequency of causing injury from tasing should be monitored to see if they are experiencing highs from afflicting pain, drawing blood, causing victims to cry and beg for mercy. Tasing highs are similar to the highs that serial killer experience.