Police Union Sues for Right to Shoot at Vehicles

Unhappy with new use of deadly force policy restrictions, the San Francisco police union is taking the police commission to court.

Update 3:38 p.m.: While the police union’s lawsuit remains intact, a San Francisco Superior Court judge has denied a request  from the San Francisco Police Officers Association to block the new use of force restrictions from going into effect. 

The San Francisco Police Officers Association and the San Francisco Police Commission have similar names, and you’d think they would agree on most matters regarding law enforcement. But the police union filed a lawsuit against the police commission last week over a new use-of-force policy that prohibits offices from shooting at moving cars.

The union is also up in arms over losing the ability to use a chokehold known as a “carotid restraint,” and that they have still not been issued Tasers.

“We’re a labor union and our members have a right to negotiate over working conditions,” San Francisco Police Officers’ Association President Martin Halloran said in a release. “The Commission wants to ignore those labor rights. The Charter is clear that our dispute must go to arbitration, so we’re asking a judge to order the Commission back to the table.”

The police union complains that the commission had verbally agreed to allow officers to open fire on vehicles in exceptional cases, like when vehicles are running over civilians. But the commission’s final verdict was to ban firing at moving vehicles, a ban recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For their part, the police commission argues they are not legally required to get the union’s approval before passing restrictions on officers’ use of force. The San Francisco City Attorney backed up this assessment after the lawsuit was filed, saying that use of force policy was “the exclusive prerogative of the Police Commission.”

Prior to the passage of these new policies, the San Francisco Police Department had not updated its use of force guidelines since 1995. The department initiated updating the guidelines in the wake of the December 2015 shooting of Mario Woods and several other high-profile police shootings nationwide.

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