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Coalition to Control Tasers wants Columbia police to have stricter policy

Sunday, March 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 6:23 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 13, 2009

COLUMBIA — In a formal response to the Columbia Police Department's Taser report given to the Columbia City Council on Monday, the Coalition to Control Tasers said the department has not done enough to prevent future abuse of the weapon.

The department has made a positive first step by openly admitting to officers' improper use of the weapon in two arrests and clarifying its Taser policy, said coalition member Ed Berg.

"There is a lot of misconception on what our position is," Berg said. "We are not in favor of banning (Tasers). They have a use if used properly by the police. We basically want to prevent harm or death to our citizens."

The Police Department's report, which was prepared by Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner at the request of Mayor Darwin Hindman, was presented to the council at its meeting Monday evening. Both officers who misused their Tasers were disciplined by the department, Dresner said, though he would not say how.

Fourth Ward City Councilman Jerry Wade said the Police Department has addressed a majority of the issues the coalition has raised since they began voicing their concerns of the police department's Taser use.

"I think the Police Department has been making changes and improving their range of standards," Wade said. "Many of the concerns (the coalition) had when they started have been addressed."

While the policy should always be re-evaluated, until more information is made available about the department's Taser policy, it is time to move on, Wade said.

The coalition is asking Columbia police to adopt 52 policy guidelines developed by the Police Executive Research Forum, a research group for police chiefs and administrators funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. The guidelines were released by the forum in 2005 after a survey of more than 130 law enforcement agencies.

Dresner said he will send the Police Department's current regulations to the forum for analysis. He said he believes the department's policy has addressed many of the major concerns the coalition had concerning the department's previous policy.

One of the biggest changes the department has made concerns people believed to have committed misdemeanors. It is now against department policy to use Tasers on these people if they try to flee from officers.

Berg said there is still a lot of mistrust in the community regarding how Tasers are being used by police. The department could begin to fix that problem by adopting the forum's guidelines, he said. By doing so, the Columbia Police Department would address a lack of clarity in its current policy in four areas: training, regulation, oversight and medical standards.

"To gain the confidence of the people there needs to be strict regulation in plain language that people can understand," Berg said. "The (forum) guidelines are more to protect the people and make sure the police do a good job."

Wade said there is strong support within the community for police to use Tasers and support of the standards that are already in place.

"A large number of  people in the community think the standards and control of Tasers are quite adequate," Wade said.

One of the biggest concerns the coalition has about police policy is that it does not require a physician to examine people who have recently been shot with a Taser. 

"You have research reports coming out every two weeks saying different things about how safe Tasers are," Berg said. "The fact is no one knows how these Tasers affect the human body."

By providing medical attention to people who have been hit with a Taser, the department would not only be helping but also protecting the department and the city from possible lawsuit.

In July, Phillip Lee McDuffy was shot by a Columbia police officer with a Taser after threatening to kill himself, causing him to fall off an overpass to the concrete 15 feet below, according to Missourian reports. In December, McDuffy and his legal counsel presented a $500,000 settlement offer to the city.

On Monday, the coalition presented the council with an analysis comparing Columbia Police Department policy with forum guidelines. They determined that while 14 of the 52 forum guidelines are included in department guidelines, 19 forum standards are not included in its current Taser policy. Parts of 11 other guidelines are partially included in department guidelines.

Dresner said the department is currently using 33 of the 52 forum guidelines in its Taser policy.

The debate over Tasers and their use is far from over. The Missouri Senate is considering a bill that would create a task force to investigate the safety of Tasers, as well as how effectively they are being used by law enforcement across the state.

The coalition is also sponsoring a public meeting to talk about Taser use by Columbia police. Reddit Hudson, a former St. Louis police officer who is now the racial justice director of the ACLU’s office in St. Louis, will be the event's featured speaker. Dresner said he plans on attending the event. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Columbia Labor Temple, 611 N. Garth Ave.


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Comments

John Schultz March 8, 2009 | 5:52 a.m.

If the coalition is not truly wanting to ban Tasers, why have they displayed posters reading (paraphrased from memory) "Tasers: Tested and Proven Deadly" at their press events and before the city council?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 8, 2009 | 6:29 a.m.

"Berg said. "The fact is no one knows how these Tasers affect the human body.""

The effect of electricity on the human body is very well known. Why would somneone make a statement like this?

DK

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 8, 2009 | 10:18 a.m.

Taser use by the police will always be a "trust of judgement" issue. I am glad to see our CPD addressing the concerns of our "self-appointed" watchdogs.
Across our nation, Tasers are sometimes used in questionable circumstances.
During a recent Crisis Intervention Team planning session, Lt. Dianne Bernard conveyed that even a program to minimize
the incarceration of the mentally ill, would not totally eliminate the use of the taser. While I understand that, I would rather the officers have some other incapacitating device.
The Department of Homeland Security is funding the creation of a new non-lethal weapon called the LED Incapacitator, a flashlight-like device that uses high-intensity LEDs, pulsating at varying rates, to render a suspect temporarily blind and dizzy.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/...

Last month, authorities in Warren, Ohio suspended a police officer after a video surfaced showing him repeatedly tasering an intoxicated woman, even after she had been handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car. That same week in California, an officer tasered an autistic teenager who had been running in and out of traffic as he tried to escape a treatment center. Other cases across the country include the use of Tasers on pregnant women, the elderly and children as young as six. Tasering someone on drugs has proven to be especially dangerous and often lethal.

(Report Comment)
John Alexander March 8, 2009 | 11:54 a.m.

Saying the effects of electricty are well known is like saying the effects of falling are known. If you stumble you are less likely to get hurt than falling off a ten story building. Under reported is that Taser conducts about 21 milliamps (0.0021 amps) Consider that a Christmas tree light bulb is one amp and the effects can be understood. Of the more than 750,000 volunteers, zero have died. The only fatalities have come from those engaged in breaking the law. However, the case cited is noteworthy, as officers must consider where the person is likely to fall. That is a training issue, not a technical one.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 8, 2009 | 12:36 p.m.

How many Tasered individuals have died of heart failure?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 8, 2009 | 12:58 p.m.

As investigators study why a 14-year-old went into cardiac arrest after being hit with a Taser in Chicago, some new research raises questions on the Taser's safety.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/0...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 8, 2009 | 1:44 p.m.

Ray, that study shocked pigs 18 times, far more than CPD allows their officers to do I believe.

Chuck, how many people have died from pepper spray and baton strikes?

Are you two wanting to ban Tasers? Sounds like it to me.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 8, 2009 | 2:15 p.m.

John Schultz chairman of the Libertarian Party of Boone County we all know how you would have it by your past comments not only here but on other blogs and forums.

You would just let the officers have free rein to run rip shod over any suspect being you are for smaller government which means less oversight and that means less citizen involvement in how procedures are brought together.

I think all readers online in this area know how you roll by now.

You still failed to answer my question of how many have died of heart failure due to Taser deployments.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 8, 2009 | 3:12 p.m.

"John Alexander March 8, 2009 | 11:54 a.m.
Saying the effects of electricty are well known is like saying the effects of falling are known. If you stumble you are less likely to get hurt than falling off a ten story building. Under reported is that Taser conducts about 21 milliamps (0.0021 amps)"

The effects of falling are also well known. And 21 milliamps is 0.021 amps, BTW.

Only 15 milliamps, through the heart, is required to kill. The current needed is higher elsewhere in the body, and I suspect this is why the Taser delivers this current (if you are correct). However, 21 milliamps is a current which has been shown to kill in the right circumstances. Under the conditions a Taser would be deployed, it is impossible to say whether the current would not pass directly through the heart, and as such, is risking the subjects death.

I'm thinking these things might not be as safe as I originally did.

DK

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 8, 2009 | 3:17 p.m.

and where due they train police to aim....center mast, right where the heart is.

"The only fatalities have come from those engaged in breaking the law."

Oh, so "non-compliance" deserves essentially a death penalty? Bunch of Neanderthals. Wait that is an insult to Neanderthals.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 8, 2009 | 4:11 p.m.

Tim Dance the only place I have seen officers trained is in some room or out doors and then they usually are shooting the volunteer/willing victim in the back no less.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 8, 2009 | 4:58 p.m.

"You would just let the officers have free rein to run rip shod over any suspect being you are for smaller government which means less oversight and that means less citizen involvement in how procedures are brought together"

Chuckles, if you can point me to one single example where I have stated CPD can tase anyone at anytime, I'll buy you and Ray a steak dinner at CC's City Broiler. I'm waiting, but I don't think my wallet will have to do so.

The above statement shows you obviously have no insight into my thinking at all (or "by far" as you would cop-out). Citizens should have a say in policy through their elected officials. CPD should provide more transparent oversight and reporting. Tasers should still remain an option for CPD.

No one knows the true number of who has died solely due to Taser usage. Amnesty International has numbers that GRO has repeated, but I don't believe any coroner reports have found them fully responsible.

Now you can answer my question about if you think Tasers should be banned or not, because you sure seem to waffle when that question has been put to you in the past.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 8, 2009 | 5:49 p.m.

>>> John Schultz chairman of the Libertarian Party of Boone County but I don't believe any coroner reports have found them fully responsible. <<<

Better go read that Moberly coroner report again. Also try using your favorite search engine.

You know my stance I have plainly stated it publicly many times.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 8, 2009 | 5:55 p.m.

What, no attempt to earn yourself a free steak dinner at CC's by proving my stance on Tasers is not what I say here? No links to other forum or blog postings to prove me in favor of willy-nilly Tasering? I thought as much.

Why can't you just say ban them, yes or no? I think you have weaseled on this stance over time. A simple yes or no will do, not very many words to type by far.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 8, 2009 | 6:23 p.m.

John Schultz chairman of the Libertarian Party of Boone County You know my stance I have plainly stated it publicly many times. If you cannot remember maybe Tim's statement is true about Libertarians are only Repubs wanting to smoke dope. After all dope kills your brain cells. You seem to forget things posted online in the past.

Why should I accept your offer to anything being you have not accepted my offers to meetings or other things. You would not even take ray shapiro's invitation to coffee and he was going to buy it.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 8, 2009 | 8:24 p.m.

Chuck:
I actually invited John Schultz to give me the opportunity to sit in on a meal with his hard-core Libertarian friends, where I would order nothing but coffee as they would dine on their steaks and I offered to pick up the entire tip plus pay for my own coffee, thank you.
Of course, hard-core Libertarians apparently would not enjoy the company of a soft-core Liberal Libertarian/Democrat Reformer hybrid such as I tend to believe myself to be.
I wonder how many people voted for Ron Paul during the last primary and then voted for Joe Biden because he wasn't too thrilled with McCain, Obama or Hillary.
At least I voted for the one person whose sense of humor and family values matched closest to my own.
But, I digress.
I personally hope technology replaces the taser. It's a nasty weapon, IMHO.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 8, 2009 | 9:08 p.m.

Just as I thought Chuck, you have no evidence of the claims you said I had expressed regarding Tasers and can't come up with a single statement as such, not even for a delicious (and free) dinner at CC's. Maybe something is affecting your brain as you alleged about me?

As I recall, Ray invited himself to have coffee with me, was wanting me to buy, and got a bit grumpy I did not accept the offer. Regardless, if either of you want to attend a lunch with local Libertarians, it's not very hard to find the details online and doesn't require an invitation. But I won't give you a ride there Chuck, as you have demanded of Ayn Rand and CMHS.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 9, 2009 | 3:54 a.m.

John Schultz chairman of the Libertarian Party of Boone County everybody in the online community knows how you roll and alot of the evidence of that is now long gone with the old now dead Trib Board. Lucky for you huh we cannot reference that anymore.

I think this link and presentation here says it quite well about why I hate Libertarians, Caution strong language do not open if you are soft of heart.
http://tilthelasthemlockdies.blogspot.co...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 9, 2009 | 7:58 a.m.

Chuck, the content from the Trib Board still lives on in Google's cache. Please present some evidence about "how I roll" regarding Tasers, that there should be no oversight on CPD's use, and that officers can Tase anyone and anytime. You can't do it because you lied!

Funny that you posted the same ranty link Ray did a few weeks back when he got grumpy at me. Tough stuff there, guess you can't come up with how you feel in your own words so you believe utter crap such as:

"In brief, Libertarians have about them the two traits that I find most loathsome in the human race: selfishness and stupidity. In the 1930s we would have found them rallying around such political filth as Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, and Francisco Franco. Then, as now, they would justify their poisonous ideas and decisions as being the most logical. Just look to see what racist, nationalist bastards around whom they now gather for a look into the very diseased minds of these idiots."

Frankly, you don't know a damn thing about Libertarians if you think the statement above from that website is correct.

Now, get along to proving my alleged comments about Tasers, or you can apologize for putting words in my mouth.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 9, 2009 | 8:49 a.m.

John Schultz chairman of the Libertarian Party of Boone County "In brief, Libertarians have about them the two traits that I find most loathsome in the human race: selfishness and stupidity".

You fit both of those very well.

You still have yet to answer my one question so you can forget about me answering yours until that time.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 9, 2009 | 9:30 a.m.

Oh but Chuck, I did answer your question:

"No one knows the true number of who has died solely due to Taser usage."

If you don't like that answer and want a number, then I will say zero, zip, nada.

Now, you can answer my question. Please try to do so without any vitriolic statements, half-truths, or innuendoes as you have done in this thread of comments.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 9, 2009 | 11:41 a.m.

John Schultz chairman of the Libertarian Party of Boone County if you do not remember my stance on Tasers from all that I have posted on many different blogs and forums in this community then maybe you need to go use your magical search engine skills and go back into those Trib Board archives to find your answer.

You can probably also find your answer here too.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 9, 2009 | 1:05 p.m.

Since you don't want to put it on the record in this thread, should I just make something up like you did regarding my beliefs on police oversight?

(Report Comment)

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