Yesterday the San Francisco Police Commission authorized the department to investigate and develop a plan for the use of tasers. The Bay Guardian reported on some of the controversy around the vote:

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.

Listen here:

Acting SF Police Chief Jeff Godown on the use of tasers[audio:]

Interview: Jeff Godown on the Use of Tasers 24 February,2011Jon Brooks

  • Godown is acknowledging something that many investigative blogger have figured out several years ago. Tasers can sometimes kill. The Excited-Delirium blog has thousands of posts on the subject spanning three and a half years. And we have found clear evidence of deception on the part of Taser International and their paid minions.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor