San Francisco police union: Impasse declared in talks over use of force policy

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — The San Francisco Police Officers Association said that the San Francisco Police Commission Friday declared an impasse in negotiations with the union over revisions to a use of force policy after failing to reach agreement on a ban on shooting at moving vehicles.

After four months of negotiations, San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran said union officials have made many concessions and “agree with the commission on 99.9 percent of the new
policy.”

“The major sticking point is a policy that would allow police officers to protect civilians from moving vehicle attacks like the one that recently occurred in Nice, France,” Halloran said. “To protect the public, we need a policy that allows police officers to use force under exceptional circumstances like Nice.”

Police commission officials could not immediately be reached for comment or confirm the impasse.

The revised policy, approved unanimously by the commission in June, was developed in the wake of the December police shooting of Mario Woods in the Bayview District.

The shooting prompted widespread controversy after bystander videos circulating on the internet appeared to show Woods, who was armed with a knife, attempting to move away from the police and not actively threatening them when he was shot.

In the aftermath, Mayor Ed Lee and then-Police Chief Greg Suhr called for a policy revision emphasizing de-escalation tactics, saying that officers would be encouraged to create “time and distance” when dealing with armed suspects.

The policy approved by the commission was the result of negotiations between the commission, union officials and community groups, and reflected large areas of agreement. However, union officials said at the time that they remained opposed to changes prohibiting the use of carotid chokeholds and firing at moving vehicles.

It remains unclear Friday evening what immediate effect the impasse will have. Police officials have said the bulk of the policy has already been put into effect through a department bulletin.

Police Commission President Suzy Loftus has said in the past that a failure to reach agreement with the police union could result in legal action that would delay the implementation of the policy.

Police chief Toney Chaplin issued the following statement in response to the POA impasse:

The Police Department met and conferred with the Police Officer’s Association over the last four months to discuss the use of force policy adopted by the Police Commission. This policy conforms to law enforcement best practices and the recently release DOJ recommendations. While the POA and the Police Department agree on a majority of the policy, we could not agree on the issue of shooting at moving vehicles. The Department has a responsibility to protect its police officers and the public they serve. 21st Century policing and the DOJ recommendation clearly indicates that officers should not shoot at moving vehicles, as this poses a significant danger to all parties, including the public. Unfortunately the discussions are at an impasse and no future meetings are scheduled at this time. The Police Department will be evaluating its options to determine what steps will be taken in the days to come to move this policy forward.

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