Poll: Most San Franciscans want police to carry stun guns

A new poll commissioned by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has found that most San Franciscans want to give stun guns to SFPD officers.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the poll, which asked a series of questions regarding the police and other major issues in the city, posed the stun gun question as follows:

“Many large cities give their police officers Taser devices as a non-lethal alternative to hand guns when confronted with a violent or mentally ill suspect. These devices are currently not used in San Francisco. Would you support or oppose authorizing the Chief of Police to issue police officers Tasers?”

Of the 500 residents who participated in the poll, approximately 78 percent responded that they would support arming officers with Tasers. Around 17 percent of respondents opposed the idea, and 5 percent responded that they did not know how they felt about the issue.

The poll also found that 60 percent of respondents viewed the SFPD favorably, while 31 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Some skeptics, including former police commissioner Angela Chan, thought the Taser results would not have been as favorable if the question had been worded differently.

“I think the answers would change if the facts on Tasers were presented to the people polled, including that Tasers do not result in a reduction in officer-involved shootings or use-of-force,” said Chan.

John Crew, former ACLU lawyer, added that polls should not be used to decide complicated policy matters and noted that the Chamber of Commerce had been a long supporter of stun guns.

“It’s framing the question to get the answer that you want,” said Crew. “What we have here is a political campaign.”

David Binder, whose firm conducted the poll, said they had tried to phrase the question as neutrally as possible, but admitted the numbers could have changed if facts regarding the potential dangers of stun guns had been included.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association has been very vocal about its support for stun gun use, but the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Criminal Justice Task Force argued a number of independent studies found Tasers can be potentially fatal.

“The Task Force concluded that the medical evidence on Taser/CEDs … suggests the weapon is indeed lethal, especially when used incorrectly or on vulnerable members of the population, including but not limited to those suffering from mental health and/or drug related problems,” the task force said.

SFPD Police Chief William Scott spoke to the POA last month in support of bringing Tasers to the department, noting that a federal review had recommended considering stun guns.

SFPD spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan said in a statement: “One of the recommendations of the Department of Justice COPS (Community Oriented Policing Service) review of the SFPD was for the Police Commission to explore the use of ECD’s (electronic controlled device) by SFPD officers.”

“Chief Scott plans to have that discussion with the Police Commission,” Gatpandan said. “He believes that SFPD officers need option(s) with respect to intermediate use of force.”