As Berkeley plans a study on potentially equipping police officers with Tasers, a coalition opposed to the use of the stun guns is holding a forum tonight to discuss the topic.
Berkeley is one of only a few Bay Area cities whose police departments do not carry Tasers, something the Berkeley Police Association has advocated changing.
The police union has said that the stun guns offer an alternative to using guns in violent situations with suspects and that Tasers have the potential to save lives as a less-lethal alternative.
An unscientific survey of Berkeley residents conducted by the association last year found strong support for studying Taser use.
But critics argue that Tasers can be lethal themselves and aren't often used in circumstances where police are confronted with lethal force, but rather in cases where police are attempting to subdue unarmed suspects.
The Coalition for a Taser Free Berkeley cites research showing a rise in in-custody deaths in California following Taser deployments, with no decrease in firearm use or officer injuries.
Tonight's forum will feature civil rights attorneys, activists and mental health professionals to discuss the possible impact of Taser deployment in Berkeley.
It will include Aram James, an activist and former Palo Alto public defender; Barbara Ann White, vice-president of the Berkeley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; James Chanin, a founding member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission and prominent civil rights attorney; Jeremy Miller, program director of the Idriss Stelley Foundation; and Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
The forum will be held at the East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St., at 7 p.m.
The city only finished taking proposals for the Taser study last month and the study is expected to be underway in October.
Another Bay Area city where police officers do not carry Tasers, San Francisco, abandoned its most recent push for a Taser policy last year in response to community concerns.
San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr had asked the city's Police Commission to approve a pilot program to allow officers to use Tasers but found community recommendations that would limit their use were potentially too restrictive.