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Monday, December 7, 2015

Police to Reconsider Use of Force Policy after Killing of Mario Woods

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 3:36 PM

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San Francisco will review and potentially revise the police department's "Use of Force" policy following the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods in the Bayview last Wednesday, Dec. 2. Video of the shooting, showing at least ten police officers surrounding Woods — who was allegedly armed with a knife — before five officers opened fire, has prompted widespread outrage and calls for SFPD Chief Suhr's resignation.

During a press conference at City Hall, Mayor Ed Lee and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr announced that the department will implement some immediate changes, including equipping police officers with crowd control shields to be used when a suspect is armed with a knife, amending the training for firearms to emphasize "pause and assessment," and increasing training for police officers on de-escalation tactics.  

"I have directed Chief Suhr to take specific, immediate action to ensure they have more options to resolve situations with the minimum use of force," said Lee.

Suhr said SFPD already possesses 60 crowd control shields which will be deployed to the department's 10 stations, though the department is still working on a plan to train officers in their use. 

Other reforms will take more time. The Police Commission plans to discuss the overall use of force policy at its meeting this Wednesday, and the Mayor has requested a "thorough review" of policies relating to use of force.

"This might require fundamentally revising the Department’s policy through General Orders, and adopting any necessary training or equipment, in addition to what the Chief has already instituted," Lee said.

Suhr said that he planned to ask the Police Commission to equip officers with Tasers, a highly controversial proposal that has in the past garnered significant community opposition. 

"I certainly think that if we had had a Taser in this situation, I think it would have ended much like it did in London on Saturday," Suhr said, referring to an incident in London in which police successfully used a Taser to arrest a man who was stabbing people at a Tube station. "I don't think you all would be standing here talking to me, but again, we don't have them."  

On Friday, Suhr announced that he has requested that SFPD join the Police Exectuvie Research Forum's program, Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force. PERF is a Washington D.C.-based police think tank. According to executive director Chuck Wexler, PERF has been working on developing a curriculum and "reality-based training program" focused on the kind of de-escalatory tactics used in England and Scotland. Wexler anticipates that the program could be ready for implementation by interested police departments in spring 2016. 

The shooting of Mario Woods is under investigation by the police department and the district attorney's office, and thus far only limited information has been made public. Suhr said that he plans to release the names of the five officers who opened fire by the end of the week. He reiterated his belief that stills from one of the bystander videos show Woods holding a knife towards one of the police officers, and said that Woods extended his arm before the officers opened fire. 

An analysis by KQED, however, found that "police gunfire actually began a fraction of a second before Woods extended his arm and that his movement may have been a response to being hit by a bullet." KQED's analysis also suggests that 19 rounds were fired over the course of 3.5 seconds. 

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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