Original post, Monday, Dec. 7: Amid community outrage over the videotaped police shooting of a Bayview man last week, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the city is "moving fast" to give the Police Department more options to de-escalate confrontations with suspects "with a minimum use of force."
Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr announced at a Monday press conference at City Hall that the Police Commission would open its review at Wednesday's meeting. At the top of the commission's agenda will be considering whether officers should carry Tasers -- a step long opposed by community activists who have argued the devices are dangerous and don't do much to prevent officers' use of firearms.
The mayor said other equipment and tactics should also be considered, including shields that could protect officers in encounters with suspects who have edged weapons, such as knives. The department currently has 60 shields and is beginning to deploy them to officers in the field, officials at Monday's press conference said.
“Oh, we’ll open it up," Police Commission member Joe Marshall said of the department's use of force policy. "We’ll talk about use of force. We’ll begin the review of all our general orders, all our policies, our procedures, our trainings, all of that.”
Marshall said he was "flabbergasted" and "appalled" when he first saw video of last week's police shooting, recorded by several bystanders, that killed Mario Woods, 26, a man police have described as a suspect in a stabbing on Wednesday afternoon.
Five officers fired at Woods as he moved toward an officer who stepped into his path.
"Did we have to handle it that way?" Marshall asked. "I’ve talked to several people, including officers, that say, ‘not necessarily.’ ”
Lee said the video is very upsetting and raises a number of questions.
He said that, on the one hand, city officials "need to reassure the people of San Francisco that lethal force is always the last option." On the other, he added, police officers "deserve more alternates to lethal force in order to best de-escalate conflicts."
The mayor said Suhr "is already ... instituting significant changes to instruction for when and how often officers use their firearms and increasing mandatory recurring training on de-escalating skills. Our Police Department will have at least as much training in de-escalation as we do on use of force.”
San Francisco's last four police chiefs, including Suhr, have urged the Police Commission to approve the use of Tasers. Suhr dropped his most recent Taser request, in 2013, after encountering skepticism about the devices' safety and effectiveness from police-accountability activists and members of the Police Commission.
Monday, Suhr made reference to a weekend incident in London
in which police officers used Tasers to stop a man who stabbed two people on a subway platform.
“Certainly as you saw on Saturday ... the London Police Department were able to stop that threat with the use of a Taser," Suhr said. "If that exact same incident happened here in San Francisco, we would have nothing but lethal force. So we would like to have Tasers. That will be part of the discussion that will be taken up when we open our use of force policy. ... I will be asking for Tasers, yes.”
Suhr has said officers opened fire after Woods ignored repeated warnings to put down an 8-inch kitchen knife he was holding. Suhr added that attempts to subdue Woods with less-lethal beanbag rounds and pepper spray failed.
“Officers are allowed to fire in defense of themselves or others in danger of serious injury or death,” Suhr said after the shooting. He told a Bayview community meeting on Friday that the most viewed video of the incident, posted to Instagram, showed Woods extending his arm toward one of the eight or more officers who had confronted him -- many with guns drawn.
Suhr's argument drew jeering from the Bayview audience, along with shouted demands that he step down.
A KQED analysis of the video shows that the 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. The Police Department has said five officers fired on Woods. Slowed-down audio of the encounter suggests at least 19 shots were fired in a 3.5-second span.
Suhr added at Monday's appearance with the mayor that he asked for SFPD to participate in research on police use of force policies and training underway at the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based police practices research organization.
Lee and Suhr met with reporters at City Hall a few hours before a meeting of the San Francisco NAACP, which was called to discuss responses to the Woods shooting.
In an acknowledgment of the public anger over the Woods shooting, Lee said Monday: “This country has seen far to many incidences where conflicts between police and young men of color result in the death of a young person. In San Francisco, we’re not that kind of city. That’s just not our values. So let me say again very clearly … black lives do matter, and as mayor I commit that we’ll take all necessary steps to prevent these kinds of incidences when possible, to ensure public safety, protect the lives of our young people and maintain officer safety.”