Taser Measure Fails, in Win For Police Reform Activists

The controversial measure received almost no endorsements, not even from the chief of police.

A controversial measure put on the ballot by the Police Officers Association was turned down by the voters. Proposition H — which further approves S.F.’s plan to equip police with tasers, albeit with few restrictions for use — appears to have lost, with only 57,741, or 39.81 percent of the votes counted so far in support.

It’s a largely unnecessary ballot measure, as the Police Commission already voted to approve the weapons for use, pending additional training on use of force for SFPD officers. But under Prop H., that training would be eliminated, pushing back the deadline to arm every single officer with the weapons by the end of 2018.

Prop H. also provides police officers with more freedom to use the weapons, in situations where it could be argued they’re unnecessary. For example, under current law tasers could only be used against someone who’s violently resisting officers. Under Prop. H, that freedom could be expanded to anyone who’s resisting at all.

The measure received support from Acting Mayor Mark Farrell, but that’s about it. Mayoral candidates Mark Leno, Jane Kim, and London Breed all oppose it, as does Chief of Police Bill Scott, the latter of whom says that it goes against the spirit of the department’s reform effort. Scott is currently working to institute 292 reform recommendations from the Department of Justice, after a racist text message scandal and a number of fatal police shootings destroyed trust between the community and the force.

To be clear: Tasers are coming. But with the denial of this ballot measure, we can hope that SFPD will better train its officers on implicit bias and use of force, and hold them accountable for when and how the weapons are used.

UPDATE: In an email to POA members Wednesday morning, President Tony Montoya touted the measure as the impetus for the Police Commission to adopt a policy to deploy the devices out of fear. The measure did not pass, he said, but they succeeded in their objectives and asserted their democratic rights.

“The paramount lesson to be learned from this experience is that our democracy works only if you work it,” wrote Montoya. “Police reform is always a drum worth banging for a candidate to get voters marching.”

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