COLUMBIA — The long-running debate over Taser use by Columbia police may be winding down.
For months, members of the Coalition to Control Tasers have worked with the Columbia Police Department to implement new oversight guidelines. At a City Council meeting two weeks ago, coalition members presented the police with a list of 52 policy guidelines from the Police Executive Research Forum. Currently, the coalition says, Columbia police guidelines follow only 14 of the research forum's guidelines.
Interim Chief Tom Dresner contends that the department's guidelines follow 33 of the 52 research forum guidelines, which include a recent change that forbids officers from using Tasers on fleeing suspects if the crime is a misdemeanor *in which there is no violence or threat of violence.
Dresner has sent the department's guidelines to the research forum for analysis and commentary. Dresner said in a news release Thursday he has no plans to change the department's policy toward Tasers until after the analysis comes back. **And if the cost is too great, the department won't be able to do it at all.
Regardless of the analysis, there are still those in the community who would like to see the Taser go away permanently. They point to incidents like the death of a Moberly man last summer, who was shot with a Taser after getting pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The Randolph County coroner later ruled his death a homicide.
The counterargument is that Tasers are an effective tool in law enforcement if used correctly and that the police shouldn't be handcuffed by too many guidelines — after all, ***they should be protecting and serving, not buried underneath unnecessary paperwork.
Are the 52 policy guidelines provided by the Police Executive Research Forum an acceptable compromise to this long-running debate? Why or why not?