A Taze A Day Keeps The Bad Guys Away

So my post yesterday was meant as a joke but I didn’t know I was being accurate. Check out what I found today:

“Parker’s office initiated a full-scale review of HPD’s policies and training on Tasers and examined the 1,000-plus times they’ve been used since December 2004.”

I suggest reading the following article if you’re concerned with this topic…

Official says HPD too quick to use Tasers: City controller, leading a review, says police may be avoiding physical confrontations


The availability of Tasers to Houston police officers may have caused an escalation, rather than a reduction, in the amount of force officers use on suspects, according to the city official overseeing a review of the stun guns’ use.

Controller Annise Parker said Wednesday that Tasers were “sold inappropriately” as a way to reduce officer shootings and instead may have become a tool that officers deploy too quickly.

“Instead of pulling back from deadly force, officers may be stepping up from verbally or physically confronting someone,” she said of her preliminary impressions of Taser use. “They seem to be using the Taser instead of putting their hands on somebody or using a nightstick.”

Police officials say the Taser is considered an intermediate weapon — just like a nightstick — that can be used long before officers must resort to deadly force. They say it has saved lives because police are using it in cases in which they would be justified in shooting.

Parker’s office initiated a full-scale review of HPD’s policies and training on Tasers and examined the 1,000-plus times they’ve been used since December 2004. The review, which began last year, continues as HPD investigates the first incident in which someone died after being shocked with a Taser.

That man died Monday after Officer S.R. Matus shocked him four times during a struggle at a southwest Houston apartment complex. Paramedics, checking on a person with “possible mental problems,” called police when they could not control the man, who was kicking and flailing in an “agitated state,” officials said.

Police also were unable to control the man, whose identity has not been released, prompting Matus to use his Taser. After the man was handcuffed and strapped to a gurney, paramedics noticed he was not breathing. He was taken to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The most recent fatality
It is at least the fifth such incident in Harris County. Three men died in 2006 after Harris County sheriff’s deputies shocked them with Tasers. A fourth man, Joel Casey, died in February 2005 after Precinct 1 deputy constables shocked him three times while serving a mental health warrant.

In none of those incidents has the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office cited the Taser as the cause of death. No ruling has been made on Monday’s death.

However, Mark Kroll, the head of the medical advisory board for Taser International, the Arizona-based company that manufactures the weapons, said the preliminary information suggests the man died from “excited delirium,” a common and controversial cause cited in a number of Taser deaths.

Medical examiners across the country have ruled “excited delirium,” a condition in which the heart fails after an overdose of adrenaline associated with such things as drug use, mental illness or panic, as the cause of death in some of the more than 150 deaths that have occurred after someone was shocked with a Taser.

“This seems like a classic case of excited delirium,” Kroll said. “He had possible mental problems, was erratically waving his arms and could not be controlled.”

Shifting blame, some say
Critics view the ruling as a way to account for deaths without blaming the Taser and question whether the condition actually exists. Randall Kallinen, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned whether a Taser should be used on someone in such a state.

“There should be an expert on the scene to assess the situation,” Kallinen said. “When someone is displaying signs of distress and mental illness, there should be a protocol in place to protect them.”

HPD’s protocols for Taser use are among the issues that will be studied in the $140,000 review Parker is overseeing.

Researchers from the University of Houston’s Center for Public Policy and Sam Houston State University will examine each incident in which an officer used a Taser in the two-plus years since they became widely available. They also will examine HPD’s process for internally reviewing Taser incidents, which Parker says are not properly documented.

Assistant Executive Chief Charles “McClelland stated that he personally reviews every Taser deployment,” she said. “That may be the case, but you can’t prove that with a paper trail.”

Police officials said incidents almost always are documented properly and that only rarely do officers fail to provide enough detail, said McClelland, who is in charge of Taser implementation and review.

He said officers must file a report when a Taser is used, and a supervisor must visit every scene and review the incident.

“We look forward to the review,” McClelland said. “I’m confident it will show we’re being responsible and accountable on how we use Tasers.”

2 Comments so far

  1. adrian (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    1000+ times!? It’s only been 878 days since December 1, 2004.

  2. adrian (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

    “They say it has saved lives because police are using it in cases in which they would be justified in shooting.”

    Oh really? So they would have normaly shot the kids in Walters? Or the pregnant woman? Or the Texans player? Wow, it sounds like we need even more changes.

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