Sheriff to put bean-bag guns in all patrol cars

San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos

Daily Post Staff Writer

Bean-bag guns will soon be in every patrol vehicle of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, according to a report from Sheriff Carlos Bolanos regarding steps his office has taken to reduce officer use of force.

The county faced calls to discontinue the use of Tasers by police after three men died while in police custody and after being shocked by Tasers.

As a response, on Feb. 11 the county’s Board of Supervisors held a study session to hear about Taser use and recommended that Bolanos examine and change some of his office’s policies. Bolanos on Tuesday will present how he has or will change things at the department, including putting bean-bag guns in all patrol vehicles.

Bean-bag guns can be useful when officers are dealing with someone who is armed with a weapon other than a gun, such as a knife, according to Bolanos’ report. He did not indicate when the bean-bag guns would be deployed nor how much they will cost.

Kristin Hart, the widow of Palo Alto teacher Kyle Hart, who was killed while moving toward police officers as he held a knife, has requested that Redwood City’s police department get bean-bag guns for the same reason that Bolanos listed.

As of May, Redwood City owned 13 bean-bag guns and had three in patrol cars during a shift.

Bolanos also plans on:

• Updating the department’s use-of-force policy, establishing how officers ought to communicate and de-escalate incidents. It also explicitly calls out Tasers, and puts restrictions on when Tasers can be used and how many times a Taser can be used on someone.

• Retraining officers in the use of Tasers once the new policy is finalized.

• Adding AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, to each patrol vehicle.

• Adding a second Psychiatric Emergency Response Team in the fall to respond to people who are dealing with mental health issues.

Another change since February is that now all officers, even those in the jail, are wearing body cameras. The sheriff’s department was one of the last agencies in the area to not have body cameras. Redwood City is the last city on the mid-Peninsula that doesn’t have body cameras but is expected to have officers wearing them by the end of the year.

The Sheriff’s Office came under scrutiny in October when Chinedu Valentine Okobi died after deputies shocked him with Tasers in Millbrae on Oct. 3. The other two men killed last year — Warren Ragudo in Daly City and Ramzi Saad in Redwood City — died in interactions with those police departments.