Representatives from immigrant advocacy groups, communities of color, queer and transgender communities, mental-health professional organizations, and civil-rights watchdog groups turned out en masse to voice opposition to the plan. Out of around 50 speakers, just one spoke in favor of adopting Tasers.
As the discussion wore on, commissioners revised the resolution again and again. Interim Police Chief Jeff Godown had initially requested permission to draft a proposal in 30 days; it was extended to 90. Instead of researching the feasibility of Tasers alone, commissioners said the SFPD should look into other less-lethal weapons as possible alternatives. Another amendment prioritized outreach to marginalized communities.
A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Godown about the rash of officer-involved shootings in the Bay Area over the past year or so. As part of that interview I asked him about tasers. He voiced his desire to see the force adopt the weapon as “another tool in the toolbox,” but also offered this caution:
“A taser is less lethal, it is not non-lethal. There have been instances across this country where people have died because of the use of tasers. And people will die again, I can guarantee you, depending on their medical issues or whatever the case might be.”
Godown also said he would not assert that the January police shooting, captured on video, of a mentally disturbed man in a wheelchair would have been prevented with the use of tasers, something that his predecessor, George Gascon, argued.
Acting SF Police Chief Jeff Godown on the use of tasers[audio:http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2011/02/GodownTasers.mp3]
- Full interview and appearance on KQED Forum (Feb 9, News Fix)