Video: San Francisco Police commission holding meeting on alternatives to use of lethal force

Bay City News, Vince Cestone, and Alecia Reid -   

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN, KRON) -- A San Francisco Police Commission Meeting on alternatives to the use of lethal force was on recess because it got too heated, as extra patrols were called in Wednesday night, but has since resumed, according to KRON's Alecia Reid.

One speaker refused to step down at the end of her allotted time in public comment, which caused the recess. The meeting, which began around 5:30 p.m., was stopped suddenly around 7:45 p.m.

At that time a member of the commission could be heard urging sheriff's deputies to back away from the woman in question.

Before that, many members of the public criticized the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods last Wednesday, as well as other recent controversies involving the San Francisco Police Department, with numerous individuals demanding the resignation or dismissal of Chief Greg Suhr.

Demonstrators are still outside City Hall as the meeting continues.

Earlier in the day, a rally demanding justice for a man fatally shot by San Francisco police last week in the city's Bayview District will take place Wednesday evening prior to a planned San Francisco Police Commission Meeting, where the police chief was expected to discuss the department's widely criticized use of force policies.

The rally, scheduled for 5 p.m. outside San Francisco City Hall, will be geared at demanding justice for Mario Woods, a 26-year-old San Francisco man who was allegedly armed with a kitchen knife when five San Francisco police officers opened fire on him on Dec. 2.

Vigils and protests following Woods' death have emphasized the public's desire for police officers to de-escalate violent situations rather than using lethal force.

The Full Rights, Empowerment and Equality San Francisco (FREE SF) coalition, comprised of organizations that condemn police violence, including the Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Causa Justa Just Cause, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and others, released a statement Wednesday condemning the officer-involved shooting.

FREE SF states that they are outraged after seeing the videos posted online of officers shooting numerous rounds at close range at Woods.

"The killing of people of color -- and especially black people -- at the hands of law enforcement is a grave national crisis, and this tragic case is further proof that San Francisco is no exception," the group wrote. "At a time when African American community members make up a tragically diminishing percent of San Francisco's overall population -- but about half of the city's jail population -- it is clear that deep structural change is urgently needed," the group said.

Police said Woods was a suspect in a stabbing of a victim who arrived at San Francisco General Hospital at about 3:50 p.m. on Dec. 2 and said he had been stabbed near the corner of Third Street and Le Conte Avenue.

An officer spotted Woods in the area about 40 minutes later, prompting the confrontation.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association union issued a statement Tuesday defending the five unnamed officers who opened fire on Woods.

SFPOA president Martin Halloran said citizens and "organizations hostile to the police" are jumping to conclusions based on short videos posted online showing the fatal shooting of Woods.

Police said officers at first deployed less-lethal "bean bag" rounds and pepper spray at Woods, who had a knife and dropped to one knee but did not fall, police said.

The online videos show Woods on Third Street near Fitzgerald Avenue, near a T-Third San Francisco Municipal Railway stop.

He is standing against a building, surrounded on two sides by officers with their guns drawn. He motions toward the officers, staggers, and then tries to walk away along the building as one of the officers moves into his path.

Numerous shots are then heard and Woods falls to the ground as the gunshots continue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Thursday, Woods' family members, Supervisor Malia Cohen and community members gathered at the place of the shooting for a vigil to remember Woods' life.

On Friday, at a heated community meeting with police Chief Greg Suhr, residents called for Suhr's resignation over the shooting, maintaining that the incident is only the most recent in a flurry of San Francisco police scandals, including text messages between officers containing racial epithets disclosed during a federal criminal case over police misconduct.

The San Francisco Police Department has not yet released the names of the officers who opened fire, but have said they will do so within 10 days of Woods' death.

Halloran, Lee and Suhr have all called for officers to be equipped with Taser stun guns, an idea that has failed several times amid public controversy over the safety of the devices, especially for people with weak hearts.

The commission is expected to take up the issue again at Wednesday evening's scheduled meeting.

Following calls from the community to de-escalate police confrontations, Suhr said he is equipping police officers with 60 protective shields -- 10 for each of the department's six districts -- and is looking toward increasing training for officers in de-escalation tactics, joining the national program Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force.

The San Francisco Police Commission meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. inside City Hall.


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