BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (May 5) will vote on updating the sheriff’s office Tasers and whether it will give Caltrain the go-ahead to place a tax on the November ballot.
The sheriff’s office use of Tasers came under scrutiny after the Oct. 3, 2018 death of Chinedu Okobi. Okobi was confronted by sheriff’s deputies for jaywalking in Millbrae and died after being shocked by deputies Tasers.
The sheriff’s office’s Tasers are about 15 years old, according to a report from Sheriff Carlos Bolanos. These new Tasers will operate for a maximum of 5 seconds and once used will automatically turn on officer’s body cameras and dash cams in case they were not already on.
The county will buy 310 new Tasers from Axon, the company that used to go by Taser, for $922,110.83, according to Bolanos’ report to the board.
The cost will be split by the sheriff’s office and the county manager’s office.
In his report to the board, Bolanos says that over the past year his office has taken steps to “better protect our deputies and the public we serve.”
Supporters of Tasers have said the devices give officers an alternative to using their guns. Opponents say that Tasers kill too many people unintentionally.
In July, all sheriff’s patrol cars got bean-bag guns. In November, all patrol cars also got defibrillators.
The sheriff’s office is in the process of getting rid of all shotguns from its vehicles and replacing them with a “less lethal alternative,” according to Bolanos’ report. What the “less lethal alternative” is was not specified in his report.
Caltrain wants to place a 30-year eighth-of-a-cent sales tax on the November ballot in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. For the tax to hit the ballot, seven different boards have to give it their blessing. So far, only the SamTrans Board has approved it.
The other agencies that must sign off on the tax are: Caltrain, VTA’s board of directors, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency and the boards of supervisors in the three counties.
The tax would bring in $100 million a year to Caltrain, which currently has a $155.7 million operating budget. Of that, $106 million comes from fares while $29.9 million comes from the three counties. The $100 million would replace the $29.9 million from the counties, resulting in about $70 million in additional revenue. Caltrain has said it would use the $70 million to implement its 2040 Plan, which calls for more trains in each direction, with all day express service every 15 minutes, and increased off-peak and weekend services.
Caltrain has complained in the past that the three counties haven’t always provided it with the money it wants. So the tax would give Caltrain a source of funding that can’t be controlled by officials in any of the three counties.
Caltrain will have to decide whether to place the tax on the ballot by Aug. 7.