San Francisco de­bates use of force by po­lice af­ter fa­tal shoot­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS -

De­bate over the use of force in­volv­ing deadly weapons and the safe­guard­ing of the pub­lic are hot top­ics na­tion­ally. That de­bate in­ten­si­fied in San Francisco re­cently.

Guns, shoot­ings, death and protests — those words kept ap­pear­ing in head­lines across the na­tion since Dec 2 af­ter five po­lice of­fi­cers fa­tally shot a man who had al­legedly stabbed an­other man min­utes ear­lier in the city’s Bayview neigh­bor­hood. He was wield­ing a large kitchen knife when sur­rounded by of­fi­cers.

The con­fronta­tion be­tween Mario Woods, 26, and the po­lice was caught in a smart­phone video that recorded Woods’ last min­utes of life on Wed­nes­day.

Of­fi­cers first shot him with lead-filled bean­bags. He fell, got up again and ap­proached an of­fi­cer, still armed with his knife, which prompted the po­lice to fire live am­mu­ni­tion.

The release of the video and Woods’ death have sparked out­rage in the city and raised ten­sions in the black com­mu­nity in the Bay Area. Many com­mu­nity lead­ers have called for the res­ig­na­tion of San Francisco Po­lice Chief Greg Suhr, ar­gu­ing that of­fi­cers were wrong to use deadly force in the in­ci­dent.

In re­sponse to the pub­lic out­cry, the five of­fi­cers in­volved in Woods’ death have been placed on leave with­out pay, pend­ing the Po­lice Depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. There are three in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­way.

The San Francisco dis­trict at­tor­ney is prob­ing the in­ci­dent, too, with a fo­cus on use of force and ac­count­abil­ity.

In a state­ment is­sued on Tues­day, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he saw the video and “found it very up­set­ting, as many did”.

“We owe all San Francisco, com­mu­ni­ties of color, and the Woods fam­ily, a full and trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion with­out de­lay,” the mayor said.

Lee re­as­sured city res­i­dents that deadly force is al­ways the last re­sort.

“The men and women of our po­lice depart­ment ded­i­cate their lives to pro­tect­ing peo­ple and build­ing trust with the com­mu­nity,” Lee said. “They too de­serve more al­ter­na­tives to lethal force in or­der to best de-es­ca­late con­flict.”

Lee had di­rected Suhr to take spe­cific, im­me­di­ate ac­tion to en­sure that po­lice of­fi­cers have more op­tions to re­solve sit­u­a­tions with the min­i­mum use of force. Since last week, of­fi­cers al­ready were equipped with pro­tec­tive shields and re­ceived in­struc­tion for when and how of­fi­cers use their firearms. The po­lice also will in­crease manda­tory, re­cur­ring train­ing on de-es­ca­la­tion skills.

Lee also di­rected the Po­lice Com­mis­sion to re­view all ex­ist­ing poli­cies re­gard­ing the use of force to “make it per­fectly clear that the depart­ment’s pol­icy is that us­ing lethal force is the last re­sort. This might re­quire fun­da­men­tally re­vis­ing the depart­ment’s pol­icy through gen­eral or­ders and adopt­ing any nec­es­sary train­ing or equip­ment, in ad­di­tion to what the chief has al­ready in­sti­tuted.”

This coun­try has seen far too many in­ci­dents in which con­flicts be­tween po­lice and young men of color re­sult in the death of w young per­son, Lee said.

“In San Francisco, we’re not this kind of city. That’s not our val­ues. So let me say again very clearly, as I’ve said be­fore, Black Lives Mat­ter,” Lee said in his state­ment.

Con­tact the writer at junechang@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

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