Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To live and die in San Francisco

Earlier this month the San Franscico Chronicle had a series of stories on the use of force by police officers. San Franscico has the reputation of being the most liberal city in the United States, so I thought it might be interesting to see what their media had to say about police use of force.

Since the articles relate to a conversation I've been having with several people lately about police use of force, I thought I'd post them as a public service.

Phil Bronstein, an editor at the Chronicle, introduces the series with these words:
This week's series in The about SFPD shootings, the processes and practices that help police do the right thing -- not needlessly endangering people's lives, including their own. Law-enforcement experts talk about the rules and regulations and how they should be followed to make deadly force less necessary.

As one of the experts and several officers point out in the series, sometimes the hardest part is the flesh-and-blood piece, the human emotion and reaction. Under dire circumstances, even a trained person's actions can be unpredictable.

I'm reminded by my visit to the police academy that life is complicated and we need to say that, too, probably more often than we do.

That doesn't excuse abuse or bias or bullying, or even not adhering to strict guidelines and training procedures. When you've got big authority and the deadly weapons to enforce it, there needs to be some strong, applicable rules that function before, during and after the use of deadly force. There should be a system and it should work to control the most awesome of the government's powers over all of us: the ability to take a life.

Still, standing in a room with only a virtual threat, I understand the strong and visceral pull of self-preservation, of fear and of emotion. SF Chronicle

December 3rd, 2006

The Use of Force - Four Shootings and Investigations

The Use of Force - When Officers Resort to Gunfire

December 4th, 2006

The Use of Force - A Traffic Stop Leads to a High-Speed Pursuit

The Use of Force - How SFPD Compares with Other Cities

December 5th, 2006

The Use of Force - Police need Greater Understanding of the Mentally Ill, Advocates Say

The Use of Force - SFPD has a 'beanbag gun' officers can use to subdue suspects who may be mentally ill

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