Friday, November 30, 2007

When is a taser appropriate?

Taser use by police officers has received a lot of attention recently due to Jared Massey posting a video on YouTube of himself getting tasered by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper after being pulled over for allegedly speeding. I have watched the entire video that was posted on YouTube. I can honestly say that there were some bad decisions made by both individuals. I can also say that if this were to be fought in court with a jury, there is no way, in my opinion, that they could find Jared Massey guilty of speeding. It is clearly shown in the video that the Trooper's cruiser could have been hiding the speed limit sign as Jared's vehicle passed. That's not what this post is intended to be about.

The trooper could have easily defused the situation early on by answering Jared's questions. I thought law enforcement officers were trained to defuse situations as quickly as possible. That didn't happen in this case. This trooper also lied to the backup officer that arrived on the scene. He claimed that he told Jared to put his hands behind his back or else he would get tasered. In the video, you can clearly hear that he never said that. That's also not what this post is about.

This post is about when it is appropriate to use a taser. The manufacturer of the X26 tasers used by Woods Cross Police Officers states on their website "It is properly the responsibility of each agency to set their own policy based upon their community standards and the totality of the circumstances for any use-of-force." How convenient for them. I'm sure this removes a great deal of liability from them as a company.

So when should a taser be used? I was on the City Council when Woods Cross decided to purchase the X26 tasers, we were told by our Police Chief, Paul Howard, that a taser offers a good alternative to an officer using their firearm. If that is the case, the UHP Trooper should not have used the taser on Jared Massey. Would the trooper have been justified in killing Mr. Massey in that instance? I don't believe so. From what I have seen on the video, it seems to me that Jared Massey was just trying to get a simple explanation about his alleged crime. Remember, in this country, you are supposedly innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Unfortunately, I think some in the law enforcement community have forgotten that fact.

In my opinion, a taser should not be used as a substitute for using pepper spray or a nightstick. A taser should be used in cases where the alternative is the officer using his firearm. During my tenure as a city council member, I was shocked and saddened to be watching the news one day and learned that we had a Woods Cross Police Officer shoot and kill a suspect of a violent crime. The suspect was unarmed, however, he was attempting to get at the officer's firearm. In that case, it would have been a good argument to use a taser and the suspect may have lived to have his day in court. Unfortunately, our officers didn't carry tasers at the time.


Concerned in WX said...

Thad. I enjoy your blog, it's a great way to keep in touch with the city. I also share a lot of your views. It would be great to get more people involved with your blog or a city blog network.

On the topic of Tasers, I heard a rumor that one of our Woods Cross citizens was tasered by police a while back and is suffering from head/brain injury as a result. This would not normally concern me, but from what I understand it was a young woman and without warning. Have you heard this as well and what are your thoughts?

Thad said...

I have not heard of this particular incident. So would it be ok if the person who had been tasered was a man? There was a recent experience in Lehi where a "young woman" shot a gun and a police officer was hit in the head from the bullet fragments. The officer is still recovering from his injuries.

Since I don't have the details of the "rumor" that you refer to I can't speak to it. I'll just refer to my post, where I say "In my opinion, a taser should not be used as a substitute for using pepper spray or a nightstick. A taser should be used in cases where the alternative is the officer using his firearm."

Concerned in WX said... said...

I think you strayed from the point of my concern. Forgive me if I didn't explain it clearly. First and foremost, that is a very sad story of the injured officer. I wish him and his loved ones well, as I can imagine the pain and suffering is great.

If someone was carrying a gun, I could certainly see how size would be irrelavant. The "young woman" description was simply pointing to the differences in physical force requirements necessary to subdue a typical young female versus a typical young male.

Anyway, you did answer the question. I do agree that tasers should ONLY be used in place of leathal force. Thank you.