From the SF Chronicle:
“One-third of shootings by San Francisco police over a five-year period might have been avoided had officers been equipped with less-lethal options such as Tasers, a police study suggests.
The study focuses on the 15 shootings by San Francisco police officers from 2005 through August 2009 involving serious injury or death. Eight of the targets were killed, and seven were wounded.
In all but one of the confrontations, Tabak said, the suspects were too close for police to use nonlethal bean-bag rounds, which are fired from a shotgun.
None of the shootings violated department policy on use of force, the report said. But a number of them, Tabak concluded, could have ended differently if officers had ‘a viable alternative to the use of deadly force.'”
First, the answer to police shooting people in cases where they need not employ deadly force (i.e., in cases where they are not in immanent and serious peril) is NOT more weaponry. Why not try fewer police, less confrontation, more de-escalation, appropriate social service responses (including preventative physical, psychological, and social health care), etc? Indeed, the fact that cops are shooting people in cases where non-lethal responses are adequate means that they are systematically using excessive force. Why should the people trust an organization that has already demonstrated its inability to use some weapons responsibly with further weaponry?
Second, tasers are LETHAL.
Finally, the article mentions the issue of mental illness (somehow forgets about the issues of race and poverty… GO FIGURE!). Mental illness played a role in 4/15 killings — by now let’s just drop the pretension and call them MURDERS. In Berkeley, we’ve been dealing with this issue a lot lately. That is, cops are not psychologists and they are not an appropriate response to someone in the midst of a psychotic episode. They don’t have the training, and the training that they do have (not to mention their machismo) emphasizes tactics of command, control, escalation, fear, power, and manipulation — in general the opposite of what people who are having mental health crises need. Cops should not be mental health first responders!