A new directive, issued on April 30 by SFPD Chief Greg Suhr and obtained by San Francisco Magazine's Joe Eskenazi, mandates that all officers carry three-foot batons when engaging with the city's homeless residents.
"Effective immediately," reads the bulletin, "unless there is an articulable reason why it would not be safe to do so, the Department-issued 36" baton shall be the impact weapon carried (in hand or in baton ring) by all ranks while on duty, in uniform, and working a radio car assignment when responding to calls for service or on view of homeless, person in crisis, and/or weapon(s) other than a firearm incidents."
Although unconfirmed, this directive suggests that the chief wants officers to move away from the standard 26" patrol baton in favor of the longer baton usually reserved for crowd control. The reason? Well, it could be part of an effort to create more "time and distance" when engaging with subjects. As noted by Police Chief Suhr at an April town hall following the shooting death of Luis Gongora, this is something he has been pushing for.
"I’ve been talking time and distance and de-escalation — that’s pretty much all I’ve been talking about all of 2016," Suhr told those gathered. "So there’ll be a lot of questions about tactics on why that didn’t happen."
Time will tell if those calling for the chief's resignation see this as a positive step in the right direction, or merely a too-little-too-late band-aid.