Use of force policy changes underway in San Mateo County after deadly shooting

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SAN MATEO COUNTY (KRON) — The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department is making changes following the taser related death of a 36-year-old father last year.

Chinedu Okobi died at the scene after being tased four times by deputies back in October of 2018.  

According to an investigation by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, the mentally ill man failed to submit to a lawful order to stop but was otherwise unarmed, not under the influence and not the suspect in any crime.  

The death prompted public outcry and now changes to the sheriff’s office are being made, some of which are already underway. 

The sheriff’s department gave an update to the county’s board of supervisors Tuesday on how the use of less lethal bean bag guns is being expanded beyond only supervisory officers and the plan to put defibulators into sheriff’s vehicles.

Other changes to the use of force policy are in the works, including those governing the use of tasers, allowing them to be used when a suspect is armed with a weapon other than a firearm is causing immediate physical injury or is violently resisting arrest.

The sheriff is proposing that deputies only be allowed to deploy the stun guns against a suspect three times, unless there are exceptional circumstances.  

The department will also provide new training for implicit bias and dealing with mental health issues.

The attorney representing Okobi’s mother says these changes are long overdue.

“It’s long overdue, but we’re hopeful that it prevents any other families or person from going through what [this] family went through in terms of losing someone in a situation that could have easily been avoided if officers had just used convert commonsense and restraint,” the attorney said. 

The changes to the department’s use of force policy still need to go before the union representing sheriff’s deputies.

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