advertisement

Police Department to adopt all police forum standards on Tasers

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department will adopt all 52 of the Police Executive Research Forum's Taser policy guidelines, Police Chief Kenneth Burton announced in a news release Monday evening.

The forum is a research group for police chiefs and administrators funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. The 52 standards, which the department released in 2005, are an attempt to standardize police department Taser policy nationally.

The Coalition to Control Tasers has been asking the Columbia Police Department to adopt all 52 policy guidelines since the beginning of March. 

"The guidelines are comprehensive, but they in no way hinder our ability to utilize Tasers as a justifiable force option at the Columbia Police Department," Burton said in the release. He could not be reached for comment Monday night.

According to the release, formal policy changes and officer training will begin no later than May 1.

The announcement is one of Burton's first official mandates since he was sworn into office on March 30. At that ceremony, Burton said he would emphasize community policing and good customer service during his tenure as chief.

The police forum's standards would not only provide stricter guidelines for Taser use but would also improve internal oversight, training and medical care for people shot with a Taser. The new standards cover issues not adequately addressed in the former department policy, said Ed Berg, a member of the Committee to Control Tasers.

"By implementing the PERF standards, the citizens of Columbia will be safer and the police will be better served knowing when and where not to use the Taser," Berg said.

At a March 2 City Council meeting, then-Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner presented a report that admitted the department had used a Taser inappropriately within the last six months — the first time the department had ever admitted improper use of the weapon.

At the same meeting, the coalition presented council members with a 32-page report that compared the Police Department's Taser policy with the forum's standards. The coalition's analysis determined that the department was using about 18 of the 52 standards at the time, Berg said.

One of the major concerns the coalition had was the lack of a clear policy on providing medical treatment from medical professionals to people shot with Tasers. Under the forum's guidelines, the department would now have to contact emergency responders whenever the police respond to a call where they believe a Taser might be used. A medical professional would also be required to provide a physical evaluation and to continue monitoring the health of anyone who has been shot by a Taser. 

By providing medical attention, the city and Police Department might see greater protection from civil lawsuits, Berg said.

According to previous Missourian reports, on July 25, Columbia police shot Phillip Lee McDuffy, 45, who was threatening to kill himself, with a Taser after 90 minutes of negotiating, causing him to fall off the Providence Road overpass above Interstate 70.

On Dec. 16, McDuffy's lawyer sent a $500,000 settlement offer to the city.

The coalition is attempting to raise awareness of Taser safety and make it a statewide issue. On Monday, members of the coalition went to Jefferson City to lobby Missouri's General Assembly to pass two pieces of legislation that, among other things, would create a statewide task force to investigate Taser safety, coalition member Mary Hussmann said.

The family of Stanley Harlan — the 23-year-old man who was killed after Moberly police repeatedly used a Taser on him during a traffic stop in August — were lobbying in the state capitol as well. 

The coalition hopes to continue discussing the safety of Tasers until the state establishes a task force to investigate Taser use by police agencies. The coalition's trip to the capital Monday was a positive step in that direction, Hussmann said.

There's been "a lot of the chatter at the grass-roots level, but now its actually getting to the legislature," Hussmann said.


Like what you see here? Become a member.


Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Comments

jim jim April 7, 2009 | 12:45 a.m.

One of the major concerns the coalition had was the lack of a clear policy on providing medical treatment from medical professionals to people shot with Tasers. Under the forum's guidelines, the department would now have to contact emergency responders whenever the police respond to a call where they believe a Taser might be used. A medical professional would also be required to provide a physical evaluation and to continue monitoring the health of anyone who has been shot by a Taser.

Huh ? DO YOU MEAN THIS WAS NOT THE POLICY ALREADY ??? The police chief needs to be sacked due to his incompetence. Taser International will never say that tasers kill. Law enforcement needs to learn to listen to the families of the people they kill and not to a corporation relying on sales.
Utterly shameful.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 7, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.

JJ:
I don't agree with your comment.
1. The announcement is one of Burton's first official mandates since he was sworn into office on March 30. At that ceremony, Burton said he would emphasize community policing and good customer service during his tenure as chief.
(He just became Chief.)
2. One of the major concerns the coalition had was the lack of a clear policy on providing medical treatment from medical professionals to people shot with Tasers.
(It's apparently now written more clearly.)
3. By providing medical attention, the city and Police Department might see greater protection from civil lawsuits, Berg said.
(Except maybe from the likes of you.)

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush April 7, 2009 | 9:53 a.m.

I commend the new police chief for this great step forward. This is the first time in a long time that I'm happy my wife and I bought a house in the community last year.
Okay citizens - let's educate ourselves as to what some of these guidelines are. Two I thought were important for us to know.
#33 reads "Agencies should consider initiating force investigations outside the chain of command when any of the following factors are involved:
a. A subject experiences death or serious injury;
b. A person experiences prolonged CED activation;
c. The CED appears to have been used in a punitive or abusive manner;
d. There appears to be a substantial deviation from training; and
e. A person in an at-risk category has been subjected to activation (e.g., young children; persons who are elderly/frail, pregnant women, and any other activation as determined by a supervisor)."
While the language is pretty weak, the public should demand an automatic investigation any time one is used. Remember the key words in this guideline are "outside the chain of command". Furthermore, there should be harsh disciplinary action for "punitive activation" when determined by an independent investigation.
#6 reads "That a subject is fleeing should not be the sole justification for police use of a CED." Don't shoot people in the back with these Electric Rifles.
Electric Rifles are lethal weapons and must be treated as such. To call them less-than-lethal is a misnomer. Even a gun can be less-than-lethal when it's used to shoot someone in the foot.
It is up to citizens to hold law enforcement accountable.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.

advertisements