SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Responding to calls for reform after a fatal police shooting, the San Francisco Police Department on Wednesday unveiled new training methods that require officers to shoot only two rounds at a time.
The changes came more than two months after five officers shot 26-year-old Mario Woods 21 times on Dec. 2 last year. Woods’ death led to a federal review of the city’s police department.
New pistol training guidelines require police recruits to hear the command “threat” before they fire at targets, to shoot only two rounds at a time, and to stop and reassess threats after every two shots.
“They need to be accountable for every shot they fire,” Police Capt. Greg Yee, who heads the city’s police academy, told the city Police Commission during a meeting Wednesday.
Recruits must also attend two-hour classes on de-escalation tactics, which teach how to deal with people in crisis, consider proportional force options, respect the sanctity of life and slow down incidents when possible.
Another new policy demands that all sworn officers take an additional eight-hour class on how to handle suspects with blades and other non-firearm weapons.
That new training requirement appears to be a response to the killing of Woods, which witnesses with cellphone cameras recorded. Woods held a knife in his right hand.
Attorney John Burris, representing Woods’ family in a wrongful death suit against the city, told Courthouse News last week that Woods did not pose a threat to the officers when they shot him.
Yee said the department is also studying training methods used by other Bay Area police departments, including Oakland, San Jose and Palo Alto, and analyzing which methods will work best in San Francisco.
New Police Shooting Investigation Policy
Also Wednesday, the Police Commission passed a resolution supporting a new charter amendment that would require the city’s police watchdog agency to investigate all police shootings that result in injury or death, not just those for which an investigation is requested.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Malia Cohen, who said she plans to introduce the proposal as a ballot initiative in June, proposed the charter change.
Cohen said the current policy that obligates the city’s Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate police shootings only when a specific request is made results in many police shootings going unchecked by the agency.
Only 25 percent of police shootings were investigated by the Office of Citizen Complaints in 2014, Cohen said at the meeting.
The agency’s director, Joyce Hicks, said she analyzed police shooting data and found her department investigated only eight out of 35 police shootings in the past five years.
The Police Commission unanimously approved a resolution supporting Cohen’s proposed referendum and charter amendment.
After the meeting, Cohen, who represents the Bayview neighborhood where Woods was shot, said she welcomes the city’s decision to submit to a voluntary review of its police department by the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
“Inviting COPS to come in does not negate our request for a criminal investigation [into Woods’ death],” Cohen said.
Cohen said the Department of Justice is still reviewing the city’s request for it to investigate the Woods shooting. Woods’ death is already being investigated by the SFPD, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and Office of Citizen Complaints.
When asked about the prospect of the launching a full-blown civil rights probe after an investigation uncovered a racist police texting scandal in the police department last year, Cohen said she would welcome any investigation by Department of Justice.
“If the COPS review yields information that we need to do a deeper investigation into the police department, then I would support any and all investigations available,” Cohen said.
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