Should Marin Law Enforcement Officers Use Taser Guns?

As the San Francisco Police Dept. shelves the latest attempt to equip officers with stun guns, all but two agencies in Marin have been using them for years. Do you have any concerns about that?

Three San Francisco police chiefs have tried and failed to implement a plan to equip officers with Taser guns, as Chief Greg Suhr earlier this month became the latest.

Suhr found that there was still too much opposition in the community and among civil rights groups, who argued that the devices were too dangerous and would be used unnecessarily. The latest iteration of the plan would have allowed certain officers who had undergone crisis intervention training to handle the devices.

The staunch opposition in San Francisco stands in stark contrast to the apparent widespread acceptance of stun guns in Marin, where all but two law enforcement agencies have been using them for years. Outside of Fairfax and Tiburon, where the use of Tasers hasn't even been proposed, stun guns have been commonplace in Marin.

There have been a pair of high-profile uses of Taser guns in Marin in recent weeks.

In the first, a Ross Police officer deployed a Taser gun on a suspect in the backyard of a home in Fairfax after a fight near Nave's Bar & Grill that sparked a wild police chase and the eventual arrest of a San Geronimo man. According to police, 21-year-old Tyler James Poppe ripped one of the dart-like electrodes from the stun gun off his skin and fled. He was arrested more than four hours later, bloody and without a shirt.

In the second incident, a suspect who has since been identified as 42-year-old transient Dimitri Storm , where Storm allegedly threatened deputies and told them he was armed. After tracking him through West Marin, Marin County deputies tried to subdue the suspect with a Taser but were unsuccessful, according to Sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd. He then fled in the SUV into the Woodacre area and was not found despite a massive manhunt, a search that involved dozens of law enforcement officers and spanned nearly nine hours before being called off late that afternoon. The search has continued in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Peninsula areas in recent days.

The most high-profile case involving stun guns in Marin happened in 2009, when Marin County Sheriff's deputies went to the Woodacre home of Peter McFarland, who had a Taser fired at him multiple times when he allagedly resisted arrest after refusing to go to the hospital for injuries he sustained in a fall. McFarland later sued for use of excessive force and won a $1.9 million settlement in 2011.

Law enforcement officials told the Marin Independent Journal at the time that Taser policies are continually changing as the law evolves through court cases, and Marin has tightened its rules and procedures over time.

"Since we implemented the Tasers and non-lethal weapons, we've revised our policy probably five or six times," Sheriff Robert Doyle told the paper, adding that more restrictive rules cut Taser use 64 percent last year. Each time a Marin deputy uses a Taser, the event is filmed by a camera in the Taser unit, he noted.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr announced his decision to shelve his scaled-back the Taser program last week at City Hall. Previous San Francisco police Chiefs Heather Fong and George Gascon had pushed for their use by all officers.

"I thought I had a more practical approach," Suhr said.

He had asked for the use of Tasers last year after a deadly officer-involved shooting, saying they would provide officers with a less-lethal option when defending themselves.

What do you think about the use of Tasers in Marin? Are stun guns OK with you? Do you have any concerns about their use? Tell us in the Comments below.

–Bay City News Service contributed to this report. Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Kathy April 26, 2013 at 05:26 AM
JAN May 01, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Law enforcement officers making an arrest go from easy to hard. Words, threats of force, Mace or physical force, taser, baton and then deadly force. Note the increase in potential harm to both officer and suspect. Used to be that you could generally talk a suspect into handcuffs with minimum violence. Now, we have all sorts of high speed dope that really augments the threat of harm to both. PCP, meth and other drugs- bath salts? make talking to a drug enraged person a waste of time. How about this, naked guy loaded on meth, PCP whatever carrying an ax? Now who is going to talk to him? The taser will work if used quickly, mace (spray) probably won't. The baton will only break bones and make things worse. The last resort of shots fired will end one problem and start another. Tasers aren't a toy but a useful tool. Tasers can save lives, injuries and law suits. FYI, the newest tasers have a video camera built in to record the event.
school bus ninja May 04, 2013 at 09:42 PM
You obviously have zero experience with firearms.
school bus ninja May 04, 2013 at 09:53 PM
"How about this, naked guy loaded on meth, PCP whatever carrying an ax? Now who is going to talk to him?" This seems to be an ever increasing problem in Marin lately. Seriously? This is Marin not Downtown Detroit. PCP? Are we in the 70's and 80's. do people still use PCP? I really don't know. Drugs aren't my thing. I just hope that they don't buy those defective Tasers the the Bart police use. I've heard they can put a hole in your back and might accidentally kill you.
school bus ninja May 04, 2013 at 10:33 PM
One thing to add. I've had a Taser pulled on me by a Long Beach motorcycle officer that had some serious mental issues. This was over a PARKING INFRACTION. I called the police dept and complained to a Capt. His response...wait...this is good..."Well, he's not one of our more politically correct officers". What the hell is that supposed to mean? The police have a crappy job. No question about it and its not a job that I would want but some of the cops out there seem to have gone from the bullied to the bullies. Once they become officers, getting rid of them for bad behavior or excessive force is very difficult. Short of video taping a cop shooting a person in the back, very little will happen to them for their use of force. In the case of Mehserle, he got two years for shooting Grant in the back with his pretend Taser, i.e. gun.


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