sfpd_cityhall.jpgIn the wake of San Francisco’s latest officer-involved shooting, police Chief George Gascon said today he is renewing an effort to add Tasers to the department’s arsenal.

“We’re continuing to evaluate whether we have the right tools,” Gascon said at a news conference this morning, at which he addressed the department’s 2010 crime statistics and fielded questions about Tuesday’s shooting of a wheelchair-bound man in the South of Market District.

Police were called to 10th and Howard streets at about 10:20 a.m., where they said the “highly agitated” man was yelling and stabbing parking meters and puncturing the tires of city vehicles with a buck knife.

The man, who was also holding a large piece of cement, police said, confronted an officer and allegedly stabbed him in the shoulder.

Officers first used pepper spray and a bean bag weapon fired from a shotgun–to no effect–and finally two other officers opened fire with their handguns, police said.

Both the officer and the man in the wheelchair were hospitalized with injuries that were not believed to be life threatening, according to police. The incident is still being investigated, and the officers have been placed on standard administrative leave.

“A Taser more than likely would have ended this scenario, probably at the earlier stages, but we don’t have a Taser,” Gascon said.

On Dec. 29, San Francisco police fatally shot a man wielding a scalpel inside a home in the Portola neighborhood. Following the shooting, Gascon said that a Taser could have been an option.

The San Francisco Police Commission voted 4-3 last March against authorizing Gascon to even draft a policy on Taser use for the commission’s review.

Some commissioners expressed concern about the potentially lethal nature of the devices, which Gascon has acknowledged have been contributing factors in some deaths. But he argued that Tasers would save more lives by providing an option for officers other than guns.

Gascon said today that he might not have spent enough time last year trying to educate all the commissioners about Tasers.

“So I underestimated the political environment that I was operating under,” he said.

Four members of the police commission are appointed by the mayor, and three by the Board of Supervisors. The commission has three new members since the last Taser debate.

Gascon said he hoped to bring the issue back to the commission in early February. He said the new members might “alter the equation.”

Should the commission approve the use of Tasers, Gascon would have to craft a policy and train officers on using the weapons, he said. They could be deployed in San Francisco by early 2012.

Prior to his comments about Tasers, Gascon, reiterating his aim to make San Francisco “the safest large city in the country,” unveiled the department’s final crime statistics from 2010.

He said violent crimes were down 4 percent from 2009 and 12 percent from 2008; property crimes were down 8 percent from 2009 and 12 percent from 2008; and overall serious crimes decreased 8 percent from 2009 and 12 percent from 2008.

While homicides rose to 50 in 2010 from 45 in 2009, they remained significantly lower than in earlier years. In 2007 and 2008, the city saw 98 homicides each year.

Earlier highs came in 1976 and 1977, when there were 146 homicides both years.

The last time San Francisco saw a homicide rate lower than 2009 and 2010 was 1963, when there were 42 homicides, according to the department.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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