Crime - Sacto 911

San Francisco cop wrestles pantless man in scene that has some wondering if de-escalation has gone too far

A video of a San Francisco police officer grappling with a homeless man who falls on him repeatedly and loses his pants is causing some to question if the city has put too many restrictions on its officers’ use of force.

In the video, an officer identified in media reports as Ilya Faynshteyn can be seen attempting to approach a homeless man who was reported as belligerent and exposing himself on Feb. 19. The man repeatedly attacks the officer and knocks him to the ground until bystanders intervene to help. One of those bystanders, Kirill Zubaryev, recorded the incident on his cell phone and posted it to Facebook.

San Francisco recently faced a contentious civic debate over a new use-of-force policy that some in law enforcement say is too restrictive and could put officers in danger. It includes banning officers from firing shots at moving vehicles except in extreme circumstances. San Francisco is also the only major police department in California that does not issue electric stun guns, commonly called Tasers, to its officers, according to use-of-force expert Ed Obayashi.

Obayashi consulted with San Francisco’s police union on the new use-of-force policy last year before it was passed. He said that the Bay Area is “a different world politically,” where the community has an “overblown, over-exaggerated,” concern about Tasers.

After viewing the video, Obayashi said the officer involved could have had a reasonable fear for his life after being attacked and knocked down, making lethal force an option. The officer did not use such force, or even noticeable force at all. But Obayashi said that in his opinion San Francisco officers should have non-lethal stun guns as an intermediary force option for just such instances.

“It makes no sense,” said Obayashi of the no-stun gun stance.

But those who have long lobbied for stricter force policies at the department disagree.

“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,” said ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye. “The public and police officers are best served by providing officers more tools through de-escalation techniques, not by increasing the arsenal of lethal weapons.”

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa