Burton dismisses complaints regarding November Taser incident

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | 8:11 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Police Chief Ken Burton ruled a complaint by eight Columbia residents unfounded Jan. 4. Residents asserted that police used unreasonable force Nov. 16 when a man was shocked with a Taser during a disturbance at Subway downtown.

Burton said in a Jan. 4 letter to the complainants that he had reviewed the case and "that no officer involved in this incident used 'unreasonable force.'" He also clarified in his response that the determination regarding reasonable use of force depends on the suspect's actions during the incident, and not on the crime that person is suspected of committing.

The Dec. 16 complaint stated that the eight residents who signed it considered the use of the Taser in the November incident to be unreasonable. Burton's response stated that the department followed standard procedures after the incident, including a review of the officers' use of force by their superior. This determines whether the officers' actions violated the police department's standard operating guidelines.

According to the letter, once a complaint is filed, the police chief must review the case and determine whether the complaint is unfounded, not sustained, sustained, or the officer is exonerated. If a complaint is unfounded, it has been decided that "acts complained of did not occur or were misconstrued."

Those who filed the complaint plan to appeal Burton's decision to the Citizens Police Review Board, the letter stated. They have 21 days from the date of his letter to do so.

"I don't think this is resolved," Mary Hussmann, one of the complainants, said. "It doesn't have to be anything particularly antagonistic in my view, but I do think we deserve a more thorough answer to the questions that were raised in the complaint."

Hussmann said she expected a detailed response that would particularly outline the continuum of force established by the Columbia Police Department.

"He may have answered this to his satisfaction, but it's not satisfactory to us. It's not satisfactory to the public," Hussmann said.

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