Judge Won’t Block S.F. Police Chokehold Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A state judge Tuesday refused to block a new policy that bars San Francisco police from shooting at moving vehicles or using chokeholds.

The police union sued the city last week, claiming it failed to negotiate in good faith with the union before approving a policy that affects officer safety and working conditions.

The union said the city prematurely declared an impasse in negotiations and failed to exhaust impasse-resolution procedures. It seeks an injunction and order compelling the city to arbitrate the dispute.

The rule banning shooting at moving vehicles unless the driver is firing a gun was adopted partly in response to the shooting death of an unarmed 29-year-old woman driving a stolen vehicle in San Francisco in May.

The ban on carotid restraints, a sleeper-hold technique, comes more than two years after activists took to the streets shouting, “I can’t breathe!” to protest the police-chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in 2014.

In a 3-page ruling issued on Dec. 27, Judge Richard Ulmer Jr. with the San Francisco Superior Court denied the union’s request for a temporary restraining order and injunction.

Ulmer found the two factors for granting injunctive relief – likelihood of success and interim harm – did not weigh in the union’s favor.

A use-of-force policy has been established as “closely akin to a managerial decision” in multiple state appellate court rulings, including a 1978 decision in a police union’s lawsuit against San Jose, Ulmer wrote.

He said California’s Meyers-Milias Brown Act distinguishes between “wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment” and “fundamental managerial or policy decisions.”

Secondly, the balance of interim harm favored the city because San Francisco stands more to lose from not implementing a policy intended to put best practices in place for the police department.

Ulmer found that potential harm to the city outweighed the union’s claim that “its standing in the eyes of its members” would decline if it were not able to protect their bargaining rights.

The city’s seven-member Police Commission unanimously adopted the policy on Dec. 27. It comes more than two months after the Department of Justice issued 272 recommendations on reforming the troubled police department, which has faced criticism for police shootings and officers’ exchanging of racist text messages.

Neither San Francisco Police Officers’ Association President Martin Halloran nor the union’s attorney Greg Adam immediately returned phone calls seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.