COLUMBIA — A coalition of six community organizations calling itself the “TASER-Free Columbia Campaign" announced on Friday a proposed November 2010 ballot initiative that would ban all use of Tasers inside city limits.
Catherine Parke, who helped start the campaign, said that Tasers “continue to be used in ambiguous, uncertain and seemingly mistaken ways that appear not to conform consistently to 'imminent danger' standards."
The announcement drew a strong response from the Columbia Police Department, which over the past year has worked with community groups seeking more training and oversight for Taser use. In the spring, the department adopted a set of national Taser guidelines supported by the Coalition to Control Tasers, another collection of community groups.
Deputy Chief Tom Dresner said he had been assured by activists that if the department adhered to proper Taser guidelines, their concerns would be satisfied. “Their repeated mantra of the need for adequate training, policy and oversight, apparently meant nothing,” Dresner said. “We have been responsive to those requests. So, now we see that was essentially a smokescreen for their real agenda."
This is not the first time the Police Department’s use of Tasers has been in the spotlight. Several events, including the July 2008 incident on an Interstate 70 overpass and this summer’s Café Berlin incident, have focused attention on the device’s safety and on police officers’ decisions to use the Taser.
The Police Department has repeatedly defended its use of the Taser, saying the device makes interactions between officers and suspects safer for both groups.
What do you think of activists’ proposal to ban Tasers in Columbia?