TODAY'S QUESTION: What do you think about the Taser-free proposition?

Friday, April 2, 2010 | 9:13 a.m. CDT; updated 5:07 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 4, 2010

COLUMBIA — Members of Taser-Free Columbia announced Thursday that they will attempt to have their proposed proposition on the November ballot. For the proposition to be placed on the ballot, the group will need 20 percent of the number of people who vote in the mayoral election Tuesday to sign the petition. Since Feb. 1, the group has collected more than 825 signatures on the petition. Forty volunteers have also joined in support of the cause.

A number of controversial incidents which involved Tasers most recently include an altercation on Aug. 1, when Columbia police tasered a man they say resisted arrest after urinating in an alleyway.

In December, the city agreed to pay $300,000 to a man who was critically injured in July 2008 after Columbia police tasered him as he stood on a pedestrian walkway over Interstate 70.

Columbia police admitted to improper use of a Taser in a September 2008 incident in which a 14-year-old was tasered when the individual ran from police after being accused of shoplifting. The department also admitted to improper use in a December 2008 incident when a man was shot by an officer with a Taser when he ran from police after being found urinating on a tree. He was charged with urinating in public and resisting arrest.

Under the proposition, the use of Tasers would be a class A misdemeanor. The ownership, purchase and sale of them would not be affected by the proposition.

What do you think about the Taser-free proposition?


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Ray Shapiro April 2, 2010 | 11:39 a.m.

I think that this is the perfect time for a proposition that the city distributes
free-Tasers to all its residents.
Its only fair that if "The District" should get city-paid surveillance cameras, which are being appropriately called "a feel-good" solution, that we ALL get a free, "feel-good" gift as well.
When I was a little kid I wanted a pony.
The police officers in my neighborhood rode big ponies.
I never got a pony.
Then, when GetAbout and PedNet came to town, I thought the 25 million dollars would mean "free" bicycles for everybody.
Well, that didn't happen.
Even the chicken ordinance didn't guarantee a "city-paid" backyard bird for all.
Well, here's our chance again.
This proposition should ensure free-Tasers for all. Who cares at what expense.
Where do I sign?

(Report Comment)
Jaci Cauthon April 2, 2010 | 12:51 p.m.

I don't necessarily agree with the Taser Free Columbia members. I understand where they are coming from, however I think that tasers, when used properly, can help in a situation that has gotten out of hand. I think outlawing them is too far. I think they should be legal, but I also think that the police need to have stricter rules on when to use tasers and which situations are allowed and which are unecessary to use tasers. I believe that the police have been overusing them for minor altercations. An example of improper use of a taser was with the man who was ready to jump off the bridge. However at a local coffee shop downtown, there was a couple intoxicated males who had entered and started to harass the guy behind the counter. When cops, walking by, tried to stop the fight, one of them escaped his handcuffs and knocked one of the cops down and started punching his head. The other cop couldn't get him off his partner, so he tased him. That is an appropriate reason to use it. Those are my views.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler April 2, 2010 | 9:10 p.m.

Jaci, I agree, what most people want is simply what is REASONABLE, tasers IMO were meant to be used ONLY in situations of self defense, where shooting the resister was considered overkill, but either the suspect was physically combatant or in some other way dangerous to the point other methods were ruled out.

I do think though, it is likely the officer who tased the man on the bridge was likely trying to keep him from jumping, I see little other motive than that a decision was made between the least of two evils. Though it didn't work out very well, I have to wonder what the outcry would have been if the man had jumped and the officer hadn't done anything.

I fully believe in citizens being able to table initiatives and local control, but I must say I would feel uneasy about voting for a measure that deprived officers of the right to have a RESPONSABLY used taser, just as much as I would if the attempt were to deprive other citizens of the right. I realize they are working as 'employees' of tax payers and maybe the decison would rest with voters, but I still think trying to outlaw their tasers is premature and possibly a kneejerk reaction.

Having said this though, I think it was an EXCELLANT idea for the tasers in the Moberly police dept. to have been banned following on the heals of resident Stanley Harlan's death by taser electrocution that resulted in a multi million dollar settlement payout. It's little comfort to a mother who has lost here son in this way, but I think it sets a great precadent, that just like citizens, officers (or depts.) ALSO have to be held accountable for tragic (and sometimes misguided IMO) decisions.

So in summary, my answer to the question, do I support a ban at this time is NO.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler April 3, 2010 | 10:13 a.m.

Since noone else has commented I'll just add a couple of extra thoughts. After reading the article again I noticed it stated:

"Under the proposition, the use of Tasers would be a class A misdemeanor. The ownership, purchase and sale of them would not be affected by the proposition."

Does this mean not just officers but citizens too would be banned from using them in DEFENSIVE situations? I'm really not against ANYONE using them in defensive situations, and by that I mean defending oneself against PHYSICAL personal attack where the chance of signifcant bodily injury is likely.

Too,wouldn't this undermine ownership rights, what good does it do to own one and make it a crime to use? Am I understanding this proposition correctly? This seems to me what the above quotation implies.

If this is correct, I could definately not support it. However, if it could be reworded to simply allow for measures to be taken against INDIVIDUALS who have misused (illegally or against dept. policy) their weapon, such as having their tasers taken away ONLY after PROVEN charges, then I might be for that depending.

I think everyone needs to be responsible with the use of any weapon reg.citizens and officers alike. If they misuse it then just like citizens who have misused a gun they should lose their right to have a gun, but ONLY on being shown to have used it improperly. In order to decide what is proper and improper I think the only way is to have a CLEAR CUT policy within the CPD and community awareness as to under what circumstances these weapons are to be used, and personally I think that should only be as they were intended, in PLACE of a situation where a gun might be called for.

As for my comments about the Moberly PD, normally I would not be for holding a whole dept accountable for what a few do, but I think at least a temporary moratorium was a good idea at least until a clear cut policy there irons out when and how these things should be used, especially after their blatant IMO misuse

(Report Comment)

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