Police Commission Will Try To Discuss Use of Force Again Today

Activists will be on hand tonight

After protests shut down last week's discussion on police use-of-force policy, San Francisco's Police Commission will try again tonight to figure out how to move forward with different, relaxed police tactics. 

Police and how they interact with suspects and the public have been hot topics this year, with vocal calls for changes coming from City Hall and the public.

Cops will at long last get body cameras later this summer, a hard-won improvement that took years. And after Greg Suhr resigned as chief in May following the latest officer-involved fatal shooting — the third in San Francisco since December — interim police Chief Toney Chaplin, a 26-year department veteran, immediately pledged sweeping reforms for the police force.

That is, if the Police Commission can get through a meeting. 

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There are two draft general orders detailing use of force policy changes. As the Police Department pointed out, the language is stronger in one and the definitions of certain words or phrases is different in both.

For instance, “should” or “should, when feasible” is considered a recommendation versus “shall” or “shall, when feasible,” which would be mandatory.

“Officers shall, when feasible, employ de-escalation techniques to decrease the likelihood of the need to use force during an incident and to increase the likelihood of voluntary compliance,” reads Version 2 of the general order.

Such language differences could, in theory, be the difference between someone losing their life or simply being arrested.

The strength of the language also comes into play in numerous other ways, including for colleague intervention: “Officers shall intervene when they reasonably believe another officer is about to use, or is using, unnecessary force. Officers shall promptly report any use of unnecessary force and the efforts made to intervene to a supervisor.”

In general, though, both draft general orders aim to reduce police killings. This is the great divide between the activists who showed up at last week’s meeting, which was cut short after repeated interruptions and yelling from some, and the Police Officers Association .

The POA holds that officer-involving shootings are “inevitable” because “career criminals will always commit crimes, they will never want to go back to jail, they will always resist arrest and try to flee,” according to the union’s June newsletter.

That and other statements in the newsletter prompted Edwin Lindo, who was part of the Frisco 5 hunger strike calling for Suhr’s firing in May, to write an open letter to the POA questioning its tactics and influence on the city.

Tonight’s Police Commission meeting is open to the public and starts at 6 p.m. at Grattan Elementary School, 165 Grattan St. in Cole Valley.

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