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TODAY'S QUESTION: Should police be banned for 30 days from using Tasers?

Friday, April 3, 2009 | 12:22 p.m. CDT; updated 5:33 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 3, 2009

The Coalition to Control Tasers has asked the City Council to ban Columbia Police Department officers' use of Tasers for 30 days.

There's no doubt there has been some problems with Taser use. Columbia police have admitted to the improper use of Tasers in two arrests — one  involved police using a Taser on a 14-year-old boy suspected of shoplifting, and the other was when police used a Taser on a man who was resisting arrest for urinating in public.

Police revised their Taser use policy in March in response to the two arrests, prohibiting the weapon's use on people suspected of less serious crimes that don't involve physical violence or an immediate threat to the public or police.

Other incidents of Taser use that have come under public scrutiny have been deemed appropriate by Columbia police, but the Coalition to Control Tasers said several of the past 48 uses of Tasers from 2005-08 were inappropriate.

In July, during negotiations where Phillip Lee McDuffy threatened to kill himself, he was shot with Tasers four times before falling over the edge of an overpass and landing on the cement 15 feet below.

The police department determined the use of Tasers was appropriate in McDuffy's case, but McDuffy's lawyer issued a letter to the city asking for a settlement of $500,000.

According to Columbia Police, Tasers have been a useful alternative to pulling their lethal weapons. In March 2008, Capt. Steven Monticelli said the devices have helped decrease injuries to police and suspects.

The Coalition to Control Tasers originally said their intention was not to ban the use of Tasers.

"There is a lot of misconception on what our position is," Berg said in a March 8 Missourian report. "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."

But the coalition has since changed its mind, calling for a suspension of Taser use for at least 30 days.

What solutions, if any, will come out of banning the use of Tasers for 30 days?


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Comments

wise won April 3, 2009 | 6:18 p.m.

Law abiding citizens support Officers right to have the best tools available to handle their jobs and go home safe at night. All Officers need Tasers

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 3, 2009 | 6:45 p.m.

[Berg said in a March 8 Missourian report. "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." But the coalition has since changed its mind, calling for a suspension of Taser use...]
So, like if in a situation where a police officer or a non-police officer gets hurt or should die in a situation where having a taser could have helped, Berg and his coalition can change their minds again?
I'd like to see some form of new technology replace what we currently have, however, until then, I can understand and begrudgingly accept the use of the best we currently have to work with. They do serve a purpose and it's probably best to keep them around for now, even though I personally don't like them. (Sort of like a few friends of mine.)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 3, 2009 | 8:04 p.m.

>>> I'd like to see some form of new technology replace what we currently have, however, until then, I can understand and begrudgingly accept the use of the best we currently have to work with. They do serve a purpose and it's probably best to keep them around for now, even though I personally don't like them. <<<

Quoted for truth.

(Report Comment)
Linda Green April 6, 2009 | 10:21 a.m.

"Today's Question" is posed in a way that does not accurately describe the issue and its broader context. The question would be more accurate if stated as follows: "Should the City Council agree with the request by the Coalition to Control TASERs to suspend police TASER use for 30-days during which the Council will hold an open meeting with the Coalition and the public to resolve issues of TASER use?"

Also, contrary to claims in the text following "Today's Question", members of the Coalition to Control TASERs have NOT changed their minds or their position that Columbia needs to adopt the TASER control standards of the Police Executive Research Forum PERF. Rather, in light of many months of little progress in attaining adequate control of police TASERs in Columbia, the Coalition felt they had to take the step of calling for a 30-day suspension of this dangerous weapon. An invitation has been issued to the Columbia City Council to attend, during this suspension, an open public meeting to discuss how we can assure that Columbia has adequate police TASER regulations, training and oversight and provides proper medical attention in TASER incidents. Only 18 of the 53 requested Police Executive Research Forum PERF standards have been met by Columbia's present police TASER policy. Let's have the 30-day TASER suspension and get our City Council engaged to get adequate police TASER control.

Also, it is NOT accurate to say "according to Columbia Police, Tasers have been a useful alternative to pulling their lethal weapons." In fact, Interim Chief Dresner has stated Columbia Police never use a TASER instead of a gun -- that when a gun is called for, the officer pulls a gun.

Last year, in Lawrence, Kansas, an innocent unarmed man was killed by police in a TASER incident, and it was recently announced that the family is suing. For more information, google: "Family seeks $100M after man died in Taser incident". The City of Columbia still has inadequate police TASER control, and so remains vulnerable to this same kind of TASER-related death and lawsuit.

Please let our legislators know that you support Missouri legislation SB 328 (sponsored by Senator Joan Bray of St. Louis) and HB 931 (sponsored by Representative Stephen Webber of Columbia). Both of these Bills call for a TASER Task Force to study and hold public hearings throughout the state to evaluate TASER safety and make recommendations regarding their use by law enforcement.

The six groups forming the Coalition to Control TASERs are: American Civil Liberties Union-EM (ACLU of Eastern Missouri), GRO - Grass Roots Organizing, Mid-MO Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Missouri Association For Social Welfare (MASW), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). This message to "Today's Question" is submitted by a member of Mid-MO WILPF.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 6, 2009 | 12:17 p.m.

[The six groups forming the Coalition to Control TASERs are: American Civil Liberties Union-EM (ACLU of Eastern Missouri), GRO - Grass Roots Organizing, Mid-MO Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Missouri Association For Social Welfare (MASW), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).]
"How many of your members are trained, "front-line," well experienced law enforcement officers? How many of your members are progressive right radicals? What else is your coalition trying to "control?"

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 6, 2009 | 1:41 p.m.

>> "How many of your members are trained, "front-line," well experienced law enforcement officers?" <<<

That answer will probably be zero.

>>>"How many of your members are progressive right radicals?" <<<

All of them.

>>> "What else is your coalition trying to "control?" <<<

This answer is everything as didn't you know that they are "entitled" to it all.

(Report Comment)
John Uehling April 6, 2009 | 2:36 p.m.

There is an item reported in this story that has been repeated multiple times, but is in contradiction to the report that was presented by the Missourian earlier. If you look at the diagram on the left side of this page,
http://www.columbiamissourian.com/storie... , you can see that Phillip Lee McDuffy fell onto grass, NOT CONCRETE, as was reported in this article and a few previous ones. Can it be confirmed one way or the other what the facts are in that case?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 6, 2009 | 3:16 p.m.

[- The man fell nearly 15 feet...2 broken arms, a broken eye socket and fractured jaw.]
I don't understand why you are that concerned about whether he fell 15 feet onto pure concrete or grass, however, I see a grassy field...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V4ZQvRnl...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 7, 2009 | 2:44 a.m.

Ray, I think John is asking for the Missourian to include a little thing called the truth in their reporting. If Mr. Duffy did fall on grass instead of concrete, they should update their coverage to include that fact. Yes, it doesn't do a thing to change the injuries he suffered, but we should expect better of our press, even those in training (again, if John is correct, and I think he might be).

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 7, 2009 | 3:21 a.m.

John:
Details..Details...Details...
If the Missourian checks out their accuracy on concrete or the grassy knoll, would they also have to explain how the error occurred?
Could we ever forgive them?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 7, 2009 | 4:41 a.m.

OMG ray shapiro did the poor man when he hit the ground whatever kind of ground he hit also slip on a used burger wrapper to because there is a huge problem they neglected to report.

We all know how dirty our roadways are these days. Did that burger wrapper help him to slide down the bank faster causing even more injuries.

Details..Details...Details...we need more dirty laundry!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2PxAIAI1...

(Report Comment)

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