To truly protect and serve, we must see the human being in front of us as someone deserving of respect and compassion no matter their state or circumstance.
Last year, I wrote on behalf of GLIDE to the Police Commission to say that tasers “present multiple dangers to both community members and police officers, and that their implementation would be especially dangerous to marginalized communities such as ours in the Tenderloin.”
Our position came about through listening both to the people of our community, including those serving on the SFPD, and to the body of research on these weapons. It was a process we and many others put care into, to be responsible to all the people who would be affected by this decision.
Still, by a narrow 4–3 vote, the Police Commission decided to allow SF police to carry the weapon. The only silver lining was that the department committed to a careful implementation that would be open to community input.
Now, Measure H, on the June 5 ballot, would forgo the process established for their rollout in the City and put in place unaccountable, inflexible policies for their adoption that not even the SFPD could modify.
Rolling out these weapons in a uniform, one-size-fits-all manner is not just hasty, it’s dangerously irresponsible and reckless. That’s why we at GLIDE oppose Measure H, and why it has been roundly rejected by, among others, Chief of Police Scott.
Let me be clear: We would rather not have these weapons added to our city at all. But given that they are coming, the responsible authorities must see to it that they are deployed with the maximum of care, consideration and training to ensure the least risk possible to our citizens.
Because the risks are real.
Tasers are sometimes framed as a less lethal alternative to firearms. But in fact, their adoption has not been shown to reduce lethal encounters between police and the public.
Moreover, the devices are not fit to be used on individuals suffering from chronic and episodic physical, mental, or substance-related health issues.
This makes tasers poorly suited to marginalized communities like the diverse, low-income neighborhood of the Tenderloin, where individuals with such conditions are often the targets of law enforcement intervention.
Deploying tasers in such circumstances places a dangerous burden on police officers who cannot accurately assess an individual’s state of health and mind, especially in a moment of crisis.
We can all too easily foresee the impact of a blanket approach like Measure H over what we hope would be a more considered and wiser implementation. This past year alone, the Bay Area witnessed taser-related deaths at the hands of police in Oakland, Daly City and Alameda.
Nationally, taser deaths stand at over 1,000 and are rising. Reuters has an interactive map displaying the taser-related deaths they have documented thus far, which you can see here.
The unintended deaths and disability caused by the use of tasers, which have led to community outrage and legal battles in other cities, are tragic for the victims and for the trust between a community and its police department.
Our communities deserve the highest degree of consideration when it comes to life-and-death decisions.
I urge you to vote no on Measure H.
Rita Shimmin, Executive Director, GLIDE Foundation. This piece also appears on Medium.