The Pleasanton City Council unanimously approved a nearly $1.5 million purchase of upgraded body cameras and Tasers for local law enforcement during its regular meeting last week.
The five-year agreement between the city of Pleasanton and Axon Enterprise, Inc. includes "a comprehensive service package that includes all hardware, operational and analytical software, training and electronic evidence storage," plus a report on the department's policy regarding body cams and stun guns, according to city staff.
The body cameras automatically turn on whenever an officer activates their Taser, draws their firearm from its holster or the sound of a gunshot is detected by the camera.
Body cameras have been worn by the Pleasanton Police Department since 2012, but only in the past four years have officers been required to turn them on whenever they interact with the public. The department's policy was revised in 2016, several months after a man was shot and killed by a Pleasanton police officer during an altercation.
The officer was later cleared of criminal charges but the revelation that his department-issued body camera was not operating at the time of the fatal encounter sparked controversy as it resulted in no known video of the shooting.
Councilwoman Julie Testa shared having "a lot of concerns" about the Tasers during Tuesday's meeting, while Pleasanton resident John Bauer -- whose adult son Jacob died while in Pleasanton PD custody in 2018 -- asked during public comment "are Tasers really necessary" after arguing their deployment locally was "only successful eight times in five years."
Councilwoman Karla Brown asked PPD officials about Tasers being deployed 11 times by officers in 2018, and "why would that be the one standout year" for the department.
Each incident from that year was "thoroughly looked at" after undergoing administrative review "and found to be within policy," according to Capt. Larry Cox.
"That year was a little bit of an anomaly. I can't answer as to why the increase, but it was a little bit of a kind of blip on the radar," Cox said.
Brown also wondered if officers "embrace the idea of improved cameras."
Cox said the force recognizes the value of "the breadcrumbs that the body cameras leave," adding there are "some very good features on the remote viewing that we can use to our advantage."
Councilman Jerry Pentin inquired whether officers are required to be Tased while in training to "see the effects" first-hand on a person. Cox said "it is recommended" but voluntary, though he estimated "the majority" of officers in training do experience being hit by a Taser round.
"If the department did not have Tasers, what would that mean or how would that affect use of force?" Vice Mayor Kathy Narum asked.
Cox replied he would be afraid about officers being "forced to go a little bit more hands on, maybe potentially rolling around on the ground or elevating it."
"It's not even an elevation; it's the same level of force as, say, a baton," Cox added. "The concern with that is a baton has the ability to cause much more long-term injury to a subject, so really the implication could be potential, more injury to subjects or police officers."
Narum said she was "dumbfounded" by the fact that officers reported being able to get a suspect under control two-thirds of the time "just by activating the Taser" and never using it.
Cox referred to Tasers as a "de-escalation tool" that can be used to "gain cooperation without using any force, if necessary."
Testa later disagreed with that characterization and said, "A threatening deterrent is absolutely not de-escalation."
"It may accomplish de-escalating the situation, but if you have someone who is in a mental health crisis, who doesn't have the cognitive capacity to understand the threat, that's when de-escalation should be considered, and it's a completely different concept," Testa said.
Pentin countered, "It is de-escalation if these new Tasers will convince someone to be apprehended without any additional force."
The contract, which was approved with a 5-0 vote by the council, will be included in PPD's annual operating budget at a total cost of $1,498,970.
In other business
* The council also signed off Tuesday for $232,072 of "urgent roadway repairs" on West Las Positas Boulevard between Hacienda and Stoneridge drives.
Posted on the meeting's consent agenda, which are items considered routine in nature and usually approved without discussion by one council vote, Narum requested a separate staff presentation on West Las Positas because so many residents had asked why the road work was needed.
The section of roadway in question was built over a former marsh and lagoon area consisting of "soft, compressible soils with high moisture content that lead to the damage as the soil layers swell and compress," according to the staff report. Staff also said roadway construction has added more loads over the soft soil, "causing localized soil swelling and settlement."
This spring "significant settlement" was noticed in the road, and crews installed signs and worked on temporary leveling. However, staff said the repairs "became greater than the capacity of the streets department to efficiently handle."
"In order to address the urgent need of pavement restoration to provide a safe travel way to vehicular traffic, engineering began working on scoping a project to be completed as a change order under one of the active paving contracts underway," staff said.
The temporary repairs include approximately 18,000 square feet of base repairs and 42,000 square feet of pavement leveling to reduce severe dips and cracks in the road. Staff said the work "is only a temporary measure until a more permanent solution can be implemented."
A request for qualifications process to find a consultant for planning and preparing permanent repairs will take place by spring. The temporary repairs are expected to be completed by November.
* Food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash are now limited on how much they can charge Pleasanton eateries on commission fees during the pandemic, after the council adopted a new temporary ordinance Tuesday.
The urgency ordinance establishes a "temporary 15% cap on commission fees charged by third-party food delivery companies on local restaurants during the declared emergency due to COVID-19."
According to city staff, "recent public health restrictions imposed by state and county public health authorities … has resulted in a severe loss of income to Pleasanton restaurants, especially those that have not been able to implement the infrastructure or staff needed for takeout and delivery services or which may not have suitable space for outdoor dining."
"Particularly during COVID-19, many consumers are using third-party food delivery services to place orders with local restaurants which charge the restaurants up to 30% of the purchase price of the order," staff said. "Placing a 15% cap on these delivery charges will help to manage the costs incurred by Pleasanton restaurants while supporting the financial structure of the food delivery services."
The ordinance goes into effect immediately.
* A public hearing scheduled for Tuesday concerning the annexation of a trio of properties just outside city limits was postponed without discussion.
The Pleasanton City Council was originally poised to potentially strike an agreement with Livermore city officials as part of a "cooperative approach" to planning for potential future development of the three parcels owned by Pleasanton Gravel Company (PGC).
City officials told the Weekly that the item was continued to give the council more clarity on the matter, including Livermore's land use review.
Located in unincorporated Alameda County, south of Jack London Boulevard and west of Isabel Avenue, the three properties are "generally north and east of the East Pleasanton Specific Plan boundary, and are all adjacent to the city of Livermore," staff said in a report.
Because none of the properties are in incorporated territory, development in Pleasanton or Livermore would require annexation by either city.
The company has reached out to both cities about developing the properties for industrial uses in recent years. Livermore staff started a dialogue with Pleasanton staff in June for "input on potential concerns and planning considerations" after Livermore indicated "preliminary interest in exploring potential annexation and development of some or all of these parcels," according to Pleasanton staff.
Both cities agreed "development of the properties within the city of Livermore (as opposed to Pleasanton) has merit," and that it may be beneficial to draw up one or more agreements among them and PGC. The agreement would address "the processing of applications to develop the properties, including a cooperative approach to review and mitigation of project impacts," according to staff.
Agreements with Livermore and other parties would be drafted by the end of the year and brought to the council for review. Livermore has not yet provided a timeline on any applications related to the properties, but Pleasanton staff said schedules will "become more clearly defined over the coming months in conjunction with the development of the agreements."
There is no anticipated financial impact for the city budget related to the agreements.