SF State campus police arming themselves with Tasers (yes, before the SFPD)

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Activist and squatter arrested by SFPD and SF State University Police at SFSU on May 16, 2013
Photo screenshot from video by Nick Morris
The squatters later alleged excessive force by the police.

Just because the SFPD can’t get Tasers doesn’t mean all the cops in San Francisco are missing out.

The San Francisco State University Police Department will soon arm themselves with conducted electrical weapons, known by the brand name Taser, following a statewide push from the California State University Chancellor’s Office to arm all of its campus police statewide with the weapons.

The university police started training with their new weapons Sept. 12, according to university spokesperson Ellen Griffin, but haven’t armed their 28 officers with them just yet. They still have to set rules for their use and the cabinet of SF State President Leslie Wong will soon meet to advise him in Taser policy. Details on what shape that policy will take are still hazy, the university told us.

“What I can say is that Dr. Wong is deeply committed to protecting the safety and welfare of our campus community,” said Shawn Whalen, a member of the president’s cabinet.

There is no statewide campus police policy for Taser use, according to California State University's policy documents on weapons. A CSU spokesperson told us each campus makes its own rules for their local police force. 

For the past decade the SFPD has tried at various times to have their officers armed with Tasers but have met loud opposition and are without them to this day, a topic we've covered before. One of the most vocal opponents of the weapons, Police Commissioner Angela Chan, is concerned that the Tasers can be fatal.

“Tasers can cause serious injury or death and have cost law enforcement that use them millions of dollars in lawsuits,” she told the Guardian. About 500 people have been killed by Tasers in the US since 2001 according to a report Amnesty International released last year.

In Cincinnati a student Tasered subsequently died. Taser advocates say deaths are prevented by Taser use, however.

Of those killed, Amnesty International said, 90 percent of the victims were unarmed.

Despite the statistics, Tasers are in widespread use around the country and in the California State University system. 

Mike Uhlenkamp, spokesperson for the CSU chancellor’s office, said that 17 campus police forces were armed with Tasers, and now all 23 will have them, including SF State.

He was unable to say how much Taser use has cost the CSU system or provide statistics on their use. The most commonly bought Taser though, the X26, costs $1,000 a piece, according to Taser’s website. 

He was also unable to cite a specific incident or incidents that prompted the need for Tasers on CSU campuses. SF State university police reported exactly eight crimes for the week of September 9-15, including petty theft, vandalism, and possession of marijuana.

Uhlenkamp did say however that “every officer gets rigorous training,” part of which is actually getting Tasered themselves. 

“Every officer will have been on the other side of a Taser at some point,” he said. 

The arguments Taser advocates make for having the weapons is that they can be used in lieu of a gun. Steve Tuttle, spokesperson for Taser, said that was the reason 17,000 law enforcement agencies use Tasers worldwide.

“I think its a loud minority that’s gotten their way in San Francisco,” Tuttle said. The idea that SFPD is the lone holdout had him saying that the “vocal minority” got their way. 

But Chan said that’s a myth. Tasers are often used as a compliance weapon when an individual is passively resisting arrest or not responding to an officer's commands, she said.  “Unfortunately, this can lead to overuse and unnecessary use, especially on young people and people of color, as we've seen around the country, including on college campuses.”

She has reason to be concerned about the safety of the campus community. When activist squatters were arrested in May by SF State’s university police, allegations of excessive force streamed in. 

The activists printed a zine documenting their experience. Melissa Nahlen, 25, reportedly wound up with “cuts near her eyes, a bruised and swollen lip, a swollen left hand … and cannot bend her neck downward due to being stomped on by the police.”

A campus police officer also sustained injuries, according to news reports. 

Video of officers arresting activists in an SF State dorm. As SFSU police and SFPD were both present, it is unclear which officers are in the video.

Tasers are used to avoid just that kind of situation, Training Lieutenant Randall Gregson of the BART police department told us. Though policies differ from department to department, Gregson ran the Guardian through BART’s tactics in using Tasers to provide a glimpse in the things SFSU will need to consider. 

BART police carry their Tasers on the “support” side of the belt, meaning the non-dominant side, he said. They also have a choice of carrying it in their duty belt on a thigh holster. “It’s an officer’s individual preference,” he said.

That preference is important, and sometimes could mean the difference between life and death. 

When BART officer Johannes Mehserle reached for his Taser but mistakenly drew his gun and shot and killed Oscar Grant back in 2009, issues about where to holster officer weapons came to the fore. 

Mehserle’s lawyer made a motion to admit BART's holster policy as evidence in the case. From the text of the motion: “The changes in BART’s training and Taser policy - removing two dominant side belt configurations and requiring officers to draw the Taser with their weak hands - constitute highly relevant evidence of an acknowledgement by BART that the prior training and policy made an accident of the sort that occurred in this case more likely, and perhaps even highly likely.”

The evidence was admitted to ask, as the lawyer wrote, “How could a trained officer mistakenly pull and fire his gun if, as he claims, he intended to deploy his Taser?”

That’s the exact kind of incident SF State President Leslie Wong’s policy will address for his officers, and the lives of the students of San Francisco State University may depend on it. 

Comments

not that anyone really cares about that, but they do anyway.

It's a more humane way of taking down bad guys.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

Disgusting.

The bootlickers constantly cheerlead for tasers because they enjoy living in a police state. Los locos are afraid of their own shadow.

Unfortunately, graphic artist Israel Hernández was killed recently by a taser in Miami.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

Because that is the choice.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

refutations off the "recent comments" list on the front page, making it less likely that the person I just refuted will notice the refutation.

Which means they are less likely to try and rebut it, leaving my statement as the last word.

So thanks.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

adding to that...

I saw how protesters during Occupy were pepper sprayed and that seemed to incapacitate protesters pretty well. But for the bootlickers pepper spray is not police state enough. People can still fight through pepper spray, But pepper spray is still effective and it won't kill the person whereas the taser can. Tasers can be lethal because they can stop a person's heart. But that wouldn't matter to bootlickers...until they are shot by a taser.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

Troll barrier something something blah blah. Never mind, I'll actually try to address his idiotic comments.

On the one hand you say that pepper spray is effective but on the other hand you say that people can still fight through it. How can it be effective if it doesn't stop someone? You just admitted that tasers are more effective at stopping a suspect.

Yes, tasers can rarely be lethal. Amnesty International alleges 500 people have died from taser use over the past 12 years. Out of how many times were they used? 10s of thousands? 100s of thousands? How many people would have been shot with guns as opposed to using tasers?

You know what's much more lethal than a taser? A .40 round in your chest. If I had a knife and was threatening people, I'd much rather get hit with a taser than a bullet..

But I know, I'm a bootlicker and I love cops and you're going to insult me because you can't refute the argument blah blah blah

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

"But I know, I'm a bootlicker and I love cops"

What side were you on in WWII? Look up the word bootlicker. It has nothing to do with liking cops.

You're here for conflict. I'm not. Fin.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

Actually, you're here to spout platitudes and insult people who disagree with you. Since you can't defeat the message, you attack the messenger. And you wonder why people like you constantly end up on the ass end of debates.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

troll barrier

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

Why didn't you learn your lesson when SFGate barred you for trolling there?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

One more thing. You think pepper spray is effective because it was used on a bunch of Occupiers? There's a little bit of difference between some scrawny whiners who could barely bench press the bar and a raging 200 LB guy on drugs.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

Or preferably ten of them.

But it's OK for cops to have options.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

You are an idiot, most cops if not all, have been hit by a taser as part of training, I have yet to hear of a officer who was killed by a taser. Taser has not been proven to kill on it's own, all deaths using a taser were people that were on drugs or had other issues. The taser alone will not kill you. And in fact, if you listen to police and avoid being tased, than you have a 100% chance of not dying from a taser.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:21 am

Tasers have killed people who weren't "on drugs or had other issues."

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:35 am

Tasers are much safer than the alternative - a slug from a .45.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:45 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:45 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:37 am

Has SF State considered crisis intervention teams instead of shock weapons that can kill? The altercation in the dorms did not have to happen. If cops wanted to de-escalate, they could have. But they were seeking vengeance. We don't need out of control cops with extra weapons that can kill and torture students and guests on our public university campus or in our City.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

want my children attending a school where the police feel constraned and neutered by policies that are too restrictive and liberal.

Sometimes the cops just have to be tough.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

ACAB

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

Look how well tasers worked out for Oscar Grant!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

All we can ask is that when they do happen, the victim is relatively unsympathetic as in this case.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Search engine: 544 Taser-Related Deaths in the United States Since 2001

(The article is on Electronicvillage)

Excerpt:
"This blog has been pointing out incidents of police taser torture for quite awhile. The work done over the past few years by Patti Gillman and Cameron Ward continue to be the inspiration for our work. Gillman and Ward documented over 805 taser-related deaths in North America on their blog."

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

One out of 2,000 persons have Mitochondrial Disease--something inherited from your mother. This means that you are maladaptive to physical stressors.

I have Mito, and while I don't expect getting hit by a Taser, Oscar Grant did not either when he left his home that last evening.

So you never know what life will bring.

But my doc would advise that if I am hit by a Taser, it could kill me--and in fact, that may explain why some die after being hit by one, much to the surprise of researchers and police who say this is not possible.

Charley

Posted by Guest Charley_sf on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 8:22 am

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