San Francisco Police Department officers will not be using Tasers, at least not for another year.
The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on Thursday agreed to remove the $1 million set-aside for Tasers in Mayor London Breed’s budget proposal, effectively stalling the implementation of the electroshock weapons until funding is proposed in future budget seasons.
“I think all five of us were willing to sweep that money because of the four Taser-related deaths in San Mateo in a year and a half,” Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer told Mission Local following the decision.
Fewer, who chairs the committee, also attributed the board’s decision to the overwhelming 2018 defeat of Proposition H, which asked voters to approve the police department’s use of Tasers, but would have limited how they would be regulated.
The defeat “showed that San Franciscans really think that we should be going in a different direction than Tasers,” she said.
The Police Commission, which sets the police department’s policy, approved Tasers in November 2017 in a contentious 4-3 vote following an emotional six-hour meeting.
Per the terms of the approval, the SFPD was set to arm its officers one year later. But the Budget and Finance Committee, taking Fewer’s lead, last year blocked the department’s $3 million funding request, putting a damper on the department’s plans.
A similar action occurred at the committee on Thursday, with the $1 million yanked from Tasers now slated to be swept into the board’s so-called “add-back” fund — $30 million or more for additional requests originally excluded from the budget.
Police Commission President Bob Hirsch, who voted in favor of Tasers in 2017, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he likely isn’t happy about Thursday’s outcome.
“We did a tremendous amount of work leading up to that vote,” he told Mission Local in an email on Monday. “If the elected officials did not want Tasers, why put us all through this protracted and contentious exercise?”
The San Francisco Police Department did not immediately respond to questions about the outcome. But Chief Bill Scott said during the hearing that, “We want to move forward with electronic control weapons [Tasers].”
He noted that the department’s use of the weapons was among the 272 reform recommendations from the U.S. Department of Justice and reiterated that the Police Commission had approved their use.
During a May 8 Police Commission meeting, Scott said that the department was far along in setting up the “infrastructure” to implement Tasers, such as establishing a review board and physical places to store the weapons at district stations.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who also sits on the Budget and Finance Committee, told Scott during the hearing that she believes the department is making progress in other areas, such as lowering its use-of-force by some 30 percent, reducing police shootings, and using “time and distance” to deal with subjects in crisis.
Given the progress, she said, “I believe that introducing a new weapon that’s increasingly problematic … is dangerous and would set a tremendous gain that you have made backward.”