News

San Mateo County supervisors consider revised policy following Taser death

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is revising its use-of-force policy, including use of Taser stun guns, following the outcry over the death of Chinedu Okobi by Tasers last October.

The Sheriff's Office will give a report on the revised policy and other reforms during a Board of Supervisors meeting today (July 23). It follows a study session in February on the use of Tasers.

Okobi, 36, was the third person in San Mateo County killed in an incident involving Tasers last year. He was stopped by sheriff's deputies while walking on El Camino Real in Millbrae on Oct. 3.

The encounter turned into a confrontation that quickly escalated, with one officer using a Taser on Okobi multiple times and others taking him to the ground and hitting him with clubs and pepper spray. A pathologist found that the Taser contributed to cardiac arrest.

The other incidents occurred in different law enforcement jurisdictions - Ramzi Saad was killed by Redwood City police in August and Warren Ragudo by Daly City police in January.

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According to the Board of Supervisors agenda, Sheriff Carlos Bolanos is also adding automated external defibrillators to patrol vehicles, a reform advocated at February's study session by Dr. Zian Tseng, who researches sudden cardiac death at the University of California at San Francisco.

The draft policy incorporates some recommendations from the American Civil Liberties Union. But the ACLU, which was permitted to review

the draft policy, wrote in a letter to county officials that some aspects of the policy do not go far enough and should incorporate anticipated changes in state law.

AB 392 has passed both houses of the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom has publicly supported it. It would make the standard for police officers to use deadly force more stringent, allowing it only when "necessary to defend against an imminent threat of great bodily injury."

The ACLU points out that the San Mateo County Sheriff's draft policy uses language that may soon be outdated, permitting deadly force when a deputy "reasonably believes" a suspect is an imminent threat.

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The policy also permits shooting at moving vehicles, a potentially dangerous practice that many experts recommend against. It was banned in most circumstances in San Francisco in 2016.

Regarding Tasers, ACLU of Northern California Criminal Justice Project Director Lizzie Buchen wrote that "the draft policy continues to fall far short of what is necessary to prevent deaths from uses of Tasers."

Specifically, Buchen said that the policy is too vague in describing the behavior when deputies would be permitted to use Tasers, calling on deputies to make a subjective assessment of what a person was thinking. Such assessments, Buchen argued, can lead to racial stereotyping.

Buchen also faulted the policy's authorization for Taser use to "overcome active resistance," which could potentially mean grabbing a lamppost, going limp or grabbing onto a car steering wheel."

The ACLU suggested using language similar to San Francisco's recently adopted Taser policy, which allows for officers to use Tasers when a suspect is armed with a weapon other than a firearm, is causing immediate physical injury, or is violently resisting arrest.

The ACLU also called for more guidance to officers to use de-escalation techniques on people suffering mental illnesses, which included all four people killed in law enforcement encounters in San Mateo County last year.

Other best practices for dealing with people with mental illnesses include setting up a perimeter, calling in professionals trained in mental health issues, and giving a person time and space to resolve a crisis, according to the ACLU.

Tuesday's meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Hall of Justice and Records, 400 North County Center in Redwood City.

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San Mateo County supervisors consider revised policy following Taser death

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 7:37 am

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is revising its use-of-force policy, including use of Taser stun guns, following the outcry over the death of Chinedu Okobi by Tasers last October.

The Sheriff's Office will give a report on the revised policy and other reforms during a Board of Supervisors meeting today (July 23). It follows a study session in February on the use of Tasers.

Okobi, 36, was the third person in San Mateo County killed in an incident involving Tasers last year. He was stopped by sheriff's deputies while walking on El Camino Real in Millbrae on Oct. 3.

The encounter turned into a confrontation that quickly escalated, with one officer using a Taser on Okobi multiple times and others taking him to the ground and hitting him with clubs and pepper spray. A pathologist found that the Taser contributed to cardiac arrest.

The other incidents occurred in different law enforcement jurisdictions - Ramzi Saad was killed by Redwood City police in August and Warren Ragudo by Daly City police in January.

According to the Board of Supervisors agenda, Sheriff Carlos Bolanos is also adding automated external defibrillators to patrol vehicles, a reform advocated at February's study session by Dr. Zian Tseng, who researches sudden cardiac death at the University of California at San Francisco.

The draft policy incorporates some recommendations from the American Civil Liberties Union. But the ACLU, which was permitted to review

the draft policy, wrote in a letter to county officials that some aspects of the policy do not go far enough and should incorporate anticipated changes in state law.

AB 392 has passed both houses of the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom has publicly supported it. It would make the standard for police officers to use deadly force more stringent, allowing it only when "necessary to defend against an imminent threat of great bodily injury."

The ACLU points out that the San Mateo County Sheriff's draft policy uses language that may soon be outdated, permitting deadly force when a deputy "reasonably believes" a suspect is an imminent threat.

The policy also permits shooting at moving vehicles, a potentially dangerous practice that many experts recommend against. It was banned in most circumstances in San Francisco in 2016.

Regarding Tasers, ACLU of Northern California Criminal Justice Project Director Lizzie Buchen wrote that "the draft policy continues to fall far short of what is necessary to prevent deaths from uses of Tasers."

Specifically, Buchen said that the policy is too vague in describing the behavior when deputies would be permitted to use Tasers, calling on deputies to make a subjective assessment of what a person was thinking. Such assessments, Buchen argued, can lead to racial stereotyping.

Buchen also faulted the policy's authorization for Taser use to "overcome active resistance," which could potentially mean grabbing a lamppost, going limp or grabbing onto a car steering wheel."

The ACLU suggested using language similar to San Francisco's recently adopted Taser policy, which allows for officers to use Tasers when a suspect is armed with a weapon other than a firearm, is causing immediate physical injury, or is violently resisting arrest.

The ACLU also called for more guidance to officers to use de-escalation techniques on people suffering mental illnesses, which included all four people killed in law enforcement encounters in San Mateo County last year.

Other best practices for dealing with people with mental illnesses include setting up a perimeter, calling in professionals trained in mental health issues, and giving a person time and space to resolve a crisis, according to the ACLU.

Tuesday's meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Hall of Justice and Records, 400 North County Center in Redwood City.

— Bay City News Service

Comments

pearl
Registered user
another community
on Jul 23, 2019 at 4:05 pm
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Jul 23, 2019 at 4:05 pm
2 people like this

Since cops on the street often only have milliseconds to decide what actions to take in certain situations, spending precious seconds trying to assess whether or not someone is suffering from a mental illness could very well cost an officer his/her life.


Tradeoffs
another community
on Jul 23, 2019 at 4:10 pm
Tradeoffs, another community
on Jul 23, 2019 at 4:10 pm
12 people like this

Pearl, you are correct. There is a tradeoff involved. Right now, the scale is almost 100% in the direction of the police officer, in terms of balancing his/her safety versus the safety of the people s/he comes in contact with. If you view those people as scum of the earth, that's probably how most of us would balance the scale. It gets tougher when innocent people die because a cop made a snap decision. Around here, police are paid a lot, and the justification is there is danger in their work. There are very few killings by police in the UK and the EU. We should learn something from them about this.


Michael G. Stogner
another community
on Jul 24, 2019 at 9:51 am
Michael G. Stogner, another community
on Jul 24, 2019 at 9:51 am
Like this comment

There was No Probable Cause to stop Chinedu Okobi in the first place. The Sheriff's Office has no plan on how to make pedestrian stops on El Camino Real. A Citizen is seen in the video directing traffic. This article mentions the AED's are now in vehicles. What difference does that make when the Six Sheriff Employees never bothered to use the one seen sitting on the gurney next to Chinedu Okobi. Okobi's death was ruled a Homicide by the Coroner's Office, Everyone in leadership in San Mateo County knows that. Carlos Bolanos and David Silberman the same two who issued the False Press Release for the Sheriff's Office on October 3, 2018 gave yesterday's presentation.

Supervisor Dave Pine gets credit for asking for a copy of the draft proposal and requested a chance to see the final draft before it is approved. Carlos Bolanos refused to provide it and refused Mr. Pines request to see final copy before it is approved. The Key words that should Not be allowed in the Final Policy are "Exceptional Circumstances' they make all the changes useless. Of course Carlos and David know that.

Chinedu Okobi died on El Camino Real, Millbrae, California while in Custody of the Six County Employees. They offered No CPR after he stopped breathing before he was sat up and held in the seated position for about 10 minutes.


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