Despite evidence that Tasers are not effective at reducing officer-involved shootings, SFPD is trying to adopt tasers in response to recent officer-involved shootings of mentally ill residents. The San Francisco Police Department wants to arm with tasers officers who are a part of a special team that has been trained to deescalate crisis situations with people with mental illness. Tasers are dangerous weapons, and their use has resulted in the deaths of 533 people in the United States. The SFPD should improve its interactions with mentally ill people by fully implementing the Crisis Intervention Team program, which was mandated by the Police Commission more than a year and a half ago. (To date, only 3 of the 8 Crisis Intervention Team trainings approved by the commission have been completed.) De-escalation techniques like Crisis Intervention Teams are the only truly "less-than-lethal option" for police interactions with people with mental illness. No to tasers for SFPD and yes to competency in interacting with people with mental illness!
Stop SFPD from acquiring Tasers
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our opposition to the use of Conductive Energy Devices (tasers) by the SFPD. Tasers are dangerous and potentially-lethal weapons, and tasers are the wrong way for SFPD to handle interactions with people with mental illness.
Rather than focusing on potentially-lethal methods for handling police interactions with people with mental illness, we think that the SFPD should follow through on its promise from more than 18 months ago to fully implement Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs). (The SFPD is behind schedule in implementing its CIT program: to date only 3 of the 8 CIT trainings that were mandated by the Police Commission more than a year and a half ago have been completed.) CITs are programs designed to improve outcomes of police interaction with people with mental illnesses. CIT officers are trained to prevent crisis, and to de-escalate crisis when it does occur. CITs are meant to give officers non-lethal tools for dealing with mentally ill people who are in crisis, and the use of CITs has been shown to decrease officer injury while preventing unnecessary deaths of people with mental illness.
Although the SFPD considers tasers to be "less-than-lethal" weapons, the truth is that tasers are dangerous weapons that can kill, particularly when used on vulnerable people, including the mentally ill. As of September 22, 2012, taser use by police has resulted in the deaths of 533 people in the United States, and a study by doctors at UCSF shows that taser use by police actually increases the rates of officer-involved shootings and fatalities in some cases.
We all agree that the SFPD needs to develop better methods for handling interactions with people with mental illness. Introducing tasers into CITs completely undermines the purpose of CITs: to de-escalate potentially-dangerous situations between police and people with mental illness. The SFPD should focus on completing the implementation of the CIT program that was approved by the Police Commission more than a year and a half ago. De-escalation techniques like those used by CITs are the only truly "less lethal option" for police interactions with people with mental illness.
For these reasons, we say "no" to tasers and "yes" to full implementation of Crisis Intervention Teams for SFPD!