After last week’s question to our District 9 candidates on the police shooting of 45-year-old homeless man Luis Gongora, many supervisorial candidates mentioned de-escalation. This week we asked the candidates to specify what they meant and weigh in on the question of whether the police force should be armed with tasers.
Are you in favor of the police department being given tasers as a less-lethal alternative to firearms? If not, what specific de-escalation tactics do you think police officers should employ before resorting to firearms?
Respuestas en español aquí.
Melissa San Miguel, education advocate
We need to start talking about a change in policing culture. Yes, police officers are in a profession where they do put their lives on the line. Yet the goal of any police encounter should be to avoid using force, unless absolutely necessary. When a member of our community is in distress and no one is in immediate danger, police officers should not escalate the situation and encircle one of our neighbors with weapons drawn. Our police officers should be trained to resolve situations calmly and respectfully. Before we equip police officers with additional weapons, we need to ensure police officers only use their weapons as a last resort and that starts with a change in culture.
Joshua Arce, civil rights attorney and Community Liaison for Laborers Local 261
Every officer should undergo crisis intervention training. Officers must be trained to communicate with suspects with the goal of encouraging suspect compliance without resorting to force, and to react appropriately if that suspect shows signs of emotional crisis, mental illness, or substance abuse.
After attempts to communicate with a suspect have failed, de-escalation is critical. As it stands today, if beanbags prove ineffective and a suspect continues to pose a threat, officers are left with only one option: their guns. We need another less-than-lethal alternative. Tasers are proven to be a means of de-escalating dangerous situations without taking lethal action.
Iswari España, Training Officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency
No, I am not in favor of tasers. Studies show that improper use can cause lethal outcomes. It is inhumane to inflict pain as a means to curb or control behavior.
Not all police interactions require force as means to control. Officers can utilize a non-aggressive approach as a means to achieve a non-violent resolution. The key is to maximize verbal command and train officers extensively on mental health. Train officers in developing responses based on the individual’s mental state rather than on actions displayed.
Darcel Jackson, caterer and formerly homeless app maker
I would like to see more beat cops on foot in the community walking. I am in support of body cams. There are too many conflicting stories about about tragedies in our community that involve our police force. We need a police force we can trust, a change in leadership is a must. It is never OK to assassinate the ones we are charged to serve. The homeless community is in a traumatic state just living under the conditions lead to episodes the best of our community to have a episode. Our officers need to be trained to deescalate situations and save a life rather than take one.
Hillary Ronen, Chief of Staff for Supervisor David Campos
As police commissioners Victor Hwang and Petra De Jesus wrote,”Tasers will only short-circuit the path to true police reform.” And nothing short of major reforms will address this problem.
First and foremost we need to make the de-escalation tactics used in cities across the world mandatory in San Francisco. Officers need to be trained and held accountable for slowing down and calming volatile situations.
When there is no imminent threat to safety, before employing any weapon, officers must be required to establish a perimeter, gather quick intelligence, determine the language spoken to make sure an individual can understand commands, and only if verbal negotiation fails, attempt to disarm an individual using shields and other protective equipment.
Edwin Lindo did not provide a response to this week’s question.
43 Questions is a weekly series — started 43 weeks before Election Day — to question the candidates running for District 9 supervisor. Send us questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know in comments or in an email if you think candidates have answered as asked.