Three San Francisco police chiefs have tried and failed to implement a plan to equip officers with Taser guns, as Chief Greg Suhr earlier this month became the latest.
Suhr found that there was still too much opposition in the community and among civil rights groups, who argued that the devices were too dangerous and would be used unnecessarily. The latest iteration of the plan would have allowed certain officers who had undergone crisis intervention training to handle the devices.
The staunch opposition in San Francisco stands in stark contrast to the apparent widespread acceptance of stun guns in Marin, where all but two law enforcement agencies have been using them for years. Outside of Fairfax and Tiburon, where the use of Tasers hasn't even been proposed, stun guns have been commonplace in Marin.
There have been a pair of high-profile uses of Taser guns in Marin in recent weeks.
In the first, a Ross Police officer deployed a Taser gun on a suspect in the backyard of a home in Fairfax after a fight near Nave's Bar & Grill that sparked a wild police chase and the eventual arrest of a San Geronimo man. According to police, 21-year-old Tyler James Poppe ripped one of the dart-like electrodes from the stun gun off his skin and fled. He was arrested more than four hours later, bloody and without a shirt.
In the second incident, a suspect who has since been identified as 42-year-old transient Dimitri Storm , where Storm allegedly threatened deputies and told them he was armed. After tracking him through West Marin, Marin County deputies tried to subdue the suspect with a Taser but were unsuccessful, according to Sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd. He then fled in the SUV into the Woodacre area and was not found despite a massive manhunt, a search that involved dozens of law enforcement officers and spanned nearly nine hours before being called off late that afternoon. The search has continued in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Peninsula areas in recent days.
The most high-profile case involving stun guns in Marin happened in 2009, when Marin County Sheriff's deputies went to the Woodacre home of Peter McFarland, who had a Taser fired at him multiple times when he allagedly resisted arrest after refusing to go to the hospital for injuries he sustained in a fall. McFarland later sued for use of excessive force and won a $1.9 million settlement in 2011.
Law enforcement officials told the Marin Independent Journal at the time that Taser policies are continually changing as the law evolves through court cases, and Marin has tightened its rules and procedures over time.
"Since we implemented the Tasers and non-lethal weapons, we've revised our policy probably five or six times," Sheriff Robert Doyle told the paper, adding that more restrictive rules cut Taser use 64 percent last year. Each time a Marin deputy uses a Taser, the event is filmed by a camera in the Taser unit, he noted.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr announced his decision to shelve his scaled-back the Taser program last week at City Hall. Previous San Francisco police Chiefs Heather Fong and George Gascon had pushed for their use by all officers.
"I thought I had a more practical approach," Suhr said.
He had asked for the use of Tasers last year after a deadly officer-involved shooting, saying they would provide officers with a less-lethal option when defending themselves.
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