San Francisco: Brutal Scuffle Exposes Big Flaw With The City's Police, Many Say

A video taken last week that depicts a San Francisco police officer being tackled by a masturbating homeless man in causing many San Francisco city officials to wonder if the city's unique stance on use of force by the authorities has gone too far.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that local college student Kirill Zubaryev was taking a walk in the city's Ocean Beach district on February 19 when he happened upon a San Francisco police officer attempting to subdue a homeless man who had taken off his pants, begun touching himself, and refused to stop. Obviously, the officer had found the man guilty of indecent exposure and had attempted to apprehend him, but the homeless man had resisted.

Of course, Zubaryev did not hesitate to whip out his phone to film the confrontation, which was just amping up. In the video, the homeless man can be seen pushing the member of San Francisco's finest around, pushing him down on the sidewalk, and falling on top of him.

The officer attempts to fight back, but, due to the uniquely restrictive set of laws San Francisco passed in December preventing police from using force when apprehending criminals, he did not have much success. In fact, the officer only tugs lamely at the homeless man's jacket and does not impede his assault in any real way until several helpful San Francisco residents join in the scuffle to help.

"At the end of the day, their timing prevented the whole situation from escalating," said Richmond Station police Capt. Paul Yep in reference to the "heroic citizens."

San Francisco police woman
SFPD officers certainly have a lot on their plates. [Image by Paul J. Elias/AP Images]

The locals who lent a hand may have saved the day this time, but the SFPD officer's inability to incapacitate the violent offender in any way, shape, or form made officials question whether San Francisco's refusal to supply police with tasers and ban on officers using cartoid neck-holds (a very effective neck-hold used by many police) on criminals was a good idea.

"This is just another example of how a flawed use-of-force policy... has gotten one of my members unnecessarily injured," said Martin Halorran, president of the Police Officers Association.

"This is a situation where the carotid restraint is extremely useful to the officer who may be outweighed or smaller in stature than the suspect."
The San Francisco police department's use-of-force expert, Ed Obayashi, stressed to The Sacramento Bee that the rules against cartoid holds and tasers "make no sense." He added that the San Francisco Bay Area is "a different world politically" and that its use-of-force restrictions are "overblown, over-exaggerated," and downright dangerous for everyone involved.
To be fair, others, such as American Civil Liberties Union attorney Linda Lye, think that San Francisco's limitations on officer force are perfectly reasonable.

"The SFPD has a history of racially-biased policing and excessive use of force. Adding Tasers – which are lethal weapons – won't solve those problems," Lye notes.

However, points out Zubaryev, the San Francisco resident who took the video, the officer did not appear to act unfairly towards the perpetrator, despite the fact that he was African American.

"From what I saw, [he] was polite," Zubaryev said, continuing that the officer had maintained a "very professional" demeanor and stayed a safe distance from the man until he had been grabbed.

It is good to know that the scourge of police brutality news headlines we have seen over the past few years are actually prompting some major cities like San Francisco to take big preventative measures. Has San Francisco in particular gone too far, though?

Former Police Commission President Suzy Loftus says it may have and adds that San Francisco's police department is seriously considering at least arming its officers with tasers.

What's your opinion on the subject? Are San Francisco's bans on both tasers and neck-holds too much to still allow officers to be effective?

[Image by Dmitri Menikov/iStock]