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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SFPD Report Urges More Tasers, Fewer Dog Bites

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2008 at 6:00 AM

By Peter Jamison


The San Francisco Police Commission and the Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee are getting together tonight at 6 p.m. in city hall to chew over the findings of an organizational assessment of the city's police department. The analysis, performed by the Police Executive Research Forum, was based on a review of police calls and incident reports, as well as focus groups and interviews with members of the public. What can we expect to learn?

The discussion promises to be long on consultant-speak -- those fond of drinking games might want to sneak some hooch into the supervisors' chambers and take a pull every time the phrase "community policing" comes up -- but lodged amid the reams of bureaucratese are some interesting suggestions for overhauling the troubled SFPD. Here are some highlights, pertaining to the use of force, pulled from a summary of the report by the Office of the Controller:

Get Tasers! The disastrous experience of veteran SFPD Inspector Marvetia Lynn Richardson with these so-called "Conducted Energy Devices" -- Richardson has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Antioch, alleging that she was inappropriately Tasered by a police officer in her home -- apparently did nothing to dissuade the city's consultants from recommending this additional "force option." No surprise here: Cops love Tasers, despite mounting evidence that they're dangerous and, as often as not, handled poorly by the officers who carry them. Expect the SFPD to greet this one with open arms.

Give up the Vulcan nerve pinch. The report suggests that the "carotid restraint" -- a viselike grip on the neck that cuts off the flow of blood to a suspect's brain -- be reserved for use only in rare cases. (The recommendation is that this be the "second highest use-of-force option" before firing a gun.)

Stop shooting at cars. The report recommends that the department "further restrict the Use of Firearms Policy regarding shooting at moving vehicles." Such shootings have in the past been a problem in San Francisco, and are regarded by many experts as a needless risk to human life. Could a common-sense proposal like this possibly have a chance of being approved?

Control your dog. In rare cases, managerial prose speaks for itself. This may be one: "Change canine policy to 'Bark and Hold' from 'Grab and Hold.'" Ouch.

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Peter Jamison


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