UPD awaits Taser approval from President Wong

At a party last fall in Redwood City, a fight over drugs broke out. Officers arrived at the scene and SF State student Daniel Atwood decided to make a run for it.

He hadn’t gotten far before an officer fired a Taser at him. The probes locked onto him and sent him into a spasm, shaking violently and convulsing on the ground. Moments later, he was handcuffed.

“It really hurts to get Tasered but you learn your lesson after it happens,” Atwood said.

Anyone around SF State’s campus that has a run-in with the University Police Department may soon learn the same painful lesson as Atwood. According to Jo Volkert, interim vice president of student affairs, UPD has been drafting rules and procedures for Taser usage on campus in a general order for a “couple of weeks.” However, no specific dates were given — and the general order is not to be made public.

No reason was given for the denial of access.

Volkert said when the University looked for tools to maintain a safe campus, Tasers came up as option for UPD officers to have another less-lethal tool.

“There have been incidents on our campus and at other CSUs that could have been handled more effectively with Tasers as an alternative,” Volkert said.

Volkert said there was one “unfortunate incident” at a Southern California CSU Campus within the last year when someone could’ve been Tased instead of shot by police.

The LA Times reported an incident last December in which 38-year-old Bartholomew Williams, a graduate student at Cal State San Bernardino whom was bipolar and enrolled as a disabled student, was shot and killed by university police after an altercation where Williams demonstrated “superhuman-type strength,” according to police.

Volkert said incidents like these could be diffused provided officers had more less-lethal options.

The CSU chancellor’s office released a system wide executive order in 2000, which outlines and authorizes weapons allowed for use by university police. This memorandum, executive order no. 756, approved the use of firearms, Tasers, tear gas, batons, bean bags, pepper balls and shotguns.

Since then, 17 CSU campuses have equipped their UPD with Taser weapons.

President Leslie E. Wong said he initiated the conversation about updating the weaponry and procedures of SF State’s University police shortly after he took office last year in a discussion with campus police chief Patrick Wasley.

“I’ll have to tell you that one of my first conversations with University police was: Do you believe you are equipped to provide a safe campus?” Wong said. “And if not, what’s out there, how are we looking ahead?”

The University police chief then presented the original proposal for Taser usage by SF State’s police to President Leslie E. Wong in January 2013, according to Volkert.

Its approval allowed UPD to move forward and acquire the Tasers and train officers.

Once President Leslie E. Wong signs and approves the general order, an “effective date” will be chosen to establish the official day when officers will begin carrying the Taser weapons on and around campus, according to Volkert.

President Wong said students shouldn’t worry about the introduction of these weapons to campus because officers will receive what he described as first-rate training.

“I understand the concern about Tasers, but I also have confidence in the UPD, and I think our commitment to good training and good policy will pay off,” Wong said.

University police officers, however, have received only a single day of training and, according to Volkert, there is no additional training scheduled. This leaves officers with only the instruction received Sept. 12.

Volkert said the University will be on the lookout for “enhanced” training opportunities in the future as well as any refresher courses officers might need.

University systems make up a large portion of Taser International’s market, according to Steve Tuttle, Taser spokesman.

“Having Tasers on campus isn’t a new trend,” Tuttle said. “It’s a trend that’s been going on since the beginning of our company.”

Even after being a victim of the Taser weapon, Atwood said he believes the safety of SF State’s campus could be improved with the addition of the weapons.

“I haven’t had any trouble with the law after I was Tasered, and I got clean and sober shortly after too,” Atwood said.

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  • Great article, lots of sources. Diggin’ it. Maybe a little too taser “celebrant,” but of course the author is entitled to her views. One thing though — at the end, might want to change Atwood’s quote to “shortly after too,” instead of “to.”

  • I’m just curious, what is a safe campus? Are we going to tase all those longboard bros who feel entitled to “catch the wave” through pedestrians? Are we going to tase all men making racist/misogynistic comments in classrooms? Are we going to tase drivers who double park in the bike lanes along Holloway? The concept of a safe campus gets thrown around a lot, but just who is included and excluded when making those boundaries?