sfpd_squad.jpg3:52 PM: A recent fatal officer-involved shooting of a mentally ill man in San Francisco was the impetus for a police request of the San Francisco Police Commission to allow officers to use Tasers, police Chief Greg Suhr said today.

The Police Commission will consider the request at its meeting tonight after previous similar requests by police to use the stun guns stalled in commission hearings the past two years.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said the July 18 shooting of Pralith Pralourng, 32, by an officer in the city’s Financial District might have been prevented if the officer had the option of a less-than-lethal weapon.

Pralourng had allegedly used a box cutter to slash a co-worker at a waterfront business, then ran away and eventually lunged at a female officer with the weapon, prompting her to open fire.

The use of a Taser “could very well have made a difference” in that case, Suhr said today. “It would’ve been a tremendous opportunity for an officer to be able to use less-than-lethal force.”

He said the devices are already used by “almost every major department in the country.”
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has already been using Tasers since 2002.

However, the family of Pralourng is joining other city officials and civil rights groups to oppose the latest proposal by police.

A statement issued by a spokesperson for Pralourng’s family said the family plans to attend tonight’s hearing to ask the commission to reject the plan.

“They don’t want his death to be used for an agenda to allow for Tasers of mentally ill individuals instead of quality training of officers and police transparency,” the statement said.

The Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also sent a letter to Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday asking the city to reject the proposal, arguing that the electrical charge from the devices can still cause serious injury or death, and that Tasers are often used excessively by officers.

“Both the police and citizens of San Francisco have far more to lose than gain by adding potentially lethal Tasers to the mix,” the letter said.

Micaela Davis, an ACLU attorney who co-wrote the letter, said it is “entirely premature” for San Francisco police to use the devices, saying the department had not adequately consulted with mental health advocates and other community organizations about the plan.

The proposal “was announced on Friday and is now being heard on Wednesday,” Davis said. “I don’t see any reason for that amount of urgency.”

Supervisor David Campos also expressed his opposition to the plan during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, calling it “a serious mistake by this Police Department.”

Tonight’s Police Commission hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall.

11:46 AM: The San Francisco Police Commission tonight will again consider whether to arm the city’s police officers with Tasers.

San Francisco police have stalled in previous efforts in recent years to get the commission’s permission to use the Tasers.

But department staff will come back before the commission at its meeting at City Hall tonight to make a presentation on a proposed Taser pilot program.

During previous hearings on the issue in 2010 and 2011, community and civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union spoke in opposition to the use of Tasers, arguing that the electrical charge from the devices can cause serious injury or death, and that Tasers are often used unnecessarily.

Supervisor David Campos has already spoken out against the latest attempt to allow Tasers, stating his opposition during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Police Commission’s meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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