ACLU asks City Council to appoint a task force to examine police use of Tasers

Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 5:55 p.m. CDT; updated 7:25 p.m. CST, Friday, February 19, 2010

COLUMBIA — The mid-Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union passed a resolution Saturday asking the City Council to establish a task force that would examine the Columbia Police Department’s use of Tasers.

The chapter’s board of directors met the day after Columbia resident Phillip Lee McDuffy fell from an overpass after a police officer shot him with a Taser.

Police tried to use a Taser to end the 90-minute standoff after McDuffy threatened to jump from the Providence Road overpass that crosses Interstate 70. After a first Taser shot failed, McDuffy ran back to a higher portion of the bridge, where he was shot a second time with a Taser and fell.
McDuffy, who was in good condition Sunday afternoon at University Hospital, broke both arms, his jaw and suffered a facial fracture in the fall.

Mid-Missouri ACLU General Counsel Dan Viets said the group has been concerned about the issue of Taser use for months, and the group discussed Friday’s incident at its regular meeting.

In the resolution, the group asks the City Council to establish a task force that would study Taser use and make recommendations to the council.

“Obviously the police need to be a part of that discussion,” Viets said. “But we believe that discussion should include people outside the Police Department.”

The resolution also asks the Police Department to halt the expansion of Taser use until after the task force has examined the issue.

On June 2, the council approved the purchase of 40 new X26 Tasers with a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which would bring the department’s total to 78 Tasers in service.

“If they have already been distributed, they should be put back on the shelf,” Viets said. “If they haven’t being distributed, they shouldn’t be.”
At its July 7 meeting, the City Council requested a report from the Police Department on its Taser policies after members of Grass Roots Organizing, another group that has expressed concern about the device’s use, asked the council to reconsider the purchase.

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