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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Canada - Excessive and lethal force?

November 30, 2004
Amnesty International

LA autopsy report 9th to cite taser use

November 30, 2004
Robert Anglen, Arizona Republic

The death of a California man two years ago is the ninth fatality to be linked to a Taser electric stun gun.

A Los Angeles County coroner said Taser could not be ruled out in the 2002 death of Johnny Lozoya, who was shocked by police when he fought with hospital staff attempting to help him following a seizure.

"One cannot exclude the Taser causing above damage to the tissues, specifically the heart," Deputy Medical Examiner Louis Pena wrote in an autopsy report. "Thus the manner of death could not be determined." advertisement

The autopsy of the 34-year-old Gardena man is the latest in a series of medical reports obtained by the Arizona Republic, which has identified 77 deaths following a police Taser strike since 1999.

The autopsy appears to contradict previous published reports by Taser International, the stun gun's Scottsdale manufacturer, which blamed Lozoya's death on a heart attack from cocaine intoxication.

"Taser not a cause," according to a company report touting the weapon's safety.

Taser says the stun gun, which has been sold to more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies as an alternative to deadly force, has never caused a death or serious injury.

Taser officials on Monday maintained that Taser played no part in Lozoya's death.

"After reviewing this case, it is similar to other in-custody deaths in which Taser technology was not deployed," Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said in an e-mail. "Taser International is always concerned when a death in custody tragically occurs."

Of the 77 cases, The Republic has so far examined 29 autopsy reports. Medical examiners have cited Taser as a cause or contributing factor in six cases and said the gun could not be ruled out in two other previous cases.

Lozoya died on July 20, 2002 after police found him lying on the ground having a seizure.

Gardena police reports show that the partially clad Lozoya was running on a convalescent home's roof. Shortly afterward, witnesses reported that he was running through traffic and that he jumped on a car.

Police found him on the ground, foaming at the mouth. Officers called paramedics, who took him to the hospital, where he became combative.

"Officers used a non-lethal weapon (Taser) to subdue the decedent," the autopsy report stated. "He went into full arrest shortly thereafter."

Although Lozoya was resuscitated, he later died.

The autopsy report shows that Lozoya died of hypoxic encephalopathy, a lack of oxygen to the brain, following cardiac arrest. The medical examiner noted on the report that Lozoya's injuries were caused by unknown factors, cocaine and Taser use.

Tuttle says Lozoya's death could not be related to the Taser because he died several minutes after being shocked.

"With the 11 minute or greater time elapse between the exposure of the Taser and Lozoya's collapse, there is no plausible cardiovascular link between the Taser use and this tragic event," Tuttle said.

For years, Taser officials claimed that no autopsy or medical examiner ever cited the stun gun as a factor in a death.

But The Republic found that Taser never had copies of autopsy reports and didn't start collecting them until April. The company also omitted cases linking the stun gun to deaths from reports to shareholders and the public.

Taser officials now acknowledge autopsy reports linking the stun gun to deaths but question their accuracy, saying coroners do not have the expertise to determine if Tasers have caused deaths.

They blame the deaths on other factors, including drug addictions and pre-existing health problems.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Taser on children OK, police say

November 27, 2004
Daytona Beach News Journal

Officials from a majority of law enforcement agencies in Volusia and Flagler counties say they would not hesitate to shoot a child with a Taser stun gun to keep the youngster from harming himself or someone else.

The Taser policies of law enforcement agencies in both counties require police to consider everything from a suspect's age to physical and mental condition, but no local agency specifically prohibits using the weapon on a child.

"There are those youths out there that are just as capable of hurting someone as any 18-year-old," said Sgt. Pete Moon of the DeLand Police Department. "Each scenario is different."

Debra Johnson, a spokeswoman with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, agreed that age wasn't the only deciding factor. "There are some 12 year-olds out there that are bigger than some adults," she said.

The weapons are equipped with electric barbs that penetrate the skin and transmit an electric shock of up to 50,000 volts from the Taser. Tasers also may be used as a stun gun by pressing the weapon against the skin.

Law enforcement agencies in the area discussed their policies with The News-Journal after two separate incidents in Miami in which police were accused of using their Taser guns on children -- a 12-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy -- who officers claimed were endangering themselves.

The incidents prompted a review of the Miami-Dade Police Department's Taser policy, said Miami-Dade Detective Nelda Fonticella , because that policy does not specifically address the issue of Tasers and children.

Local police said officers are expected to use discretion and consider whether the suspect poses a threat to himself or another person.

Of the local police agencies surveyed, only the Daytona Beach police reported using a Taser on a child under 17.

Volusia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Brandon Haught said Sheriff Ben Johnson is "fully against" using Tasers on children.

"He feels it should be used only as a last resort," Haught said.

Spokesman Gary Davidson described the department's Taser use as "very conservative." Deputies have deployed the weapons 175 times in the last three years.

Resource officers who patrol Volusia or Flagler schools do not carry Tasers, officials said, but do carry service weapons and can call on sheriff's deputies with Tasers for backup.

Daytona Beach Shores police -- who have deployed Tasers more often this year than any other law enforcement agency in the county, according to police reports -- declined comment on the issue.

Police agencies in Central Florida have had to decide whether to allow officers to use Tasers only in cases of active physical resistance, or in any case of resistance, including verbal refusals to cooperate.

In the Daytona Beach police incidents earlier this year where Tasers were deployed against two 16-year-old boys in two separate incidents, the suspects were running away from police, said Lt. Jesse Godfrey, a spokesman for the department.

An officer may fire his or her Taser at a running suspect if the officer believes the person has committed a crime, Godfrey said. The officer must shout verbal commands at the suspect and warn that the Taser will be used.

"In a foot pursuit, either the officer or the person can hurt their leg or ankle, they can get hit by a car or they can fall," Godfrey said. "By using the Taser, we reduce the danger to both."

Yvonne Herrera, R.N., an pediatric intensive care nurse in charge of Night Lite Pediatrics in Orlando, said little information is available about the medical effects of a Taser on a child and the pediatricians there had never heard of a Taser being used on a local child.

"I don't think that was the intended use," she said.

As an emergency room nurse, though, Herrera said she has seen adults brought in after being hit with Tasers. She said the Taser's current doesn't knock suspects from their feet, but causes their knees to buckle, so they crumple to the ground. Patients who have received a Taser blast usually have no serious injuries, she said, and are treated for pain and small lacerations at the site of the stun.

Many officers said that as much as they would dislike having to shoot a child with a Taser, they recognize the time might come when it would be necessary.

"The child would have to reach the same level (of behavior) as an adult," said Ormond Beach training division Officer Vince Champion.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Claims Over Tasers' Safety Are Challenged

November 26, 2004
Alex Berenson, The New York Times

Taser International, whose electrical guns are used by thousands of police departments nationwide, says that a federal study endorses the safety of its guns, but the laboratory that conducted the research disagrees.

Taser said last month that the government study, whose full results have not yet been released, found that its guns were safe. Since that statement, the company's stock has soared and its executives and directors have sold $68 million in shares, about 5 percent of Taser's stock and nearly half their holdings.

But the Air Force laboratory that conducted the study now says that it actually found that the guns could be dangerous and that more data was needed to evaluate their risks. The guns "may cause several unintended effects, albeit with low probabilities of occurrence," the laboratory said last week in a statement released after a symposium on Tasers, as the company's guns are known, and other weapons intended to incapacitate people without killing them.

Taser said Wednesday that it stood behind its October statement.

Other data presented at the symposium raised questions about one of Taser's key claims about the effectiveness of its newest and most expensive weapon.

Tasers are pistol-shaped weapons that fire electrified darts up to 21 feet, shocking suspects with a painful charge. More than 5,500 police departments and prisons now use Tasers, compared with only a handful five years ago.

Many police officers say that Tasers give them a way to restrain dangerous suspects without using firearms or fighting with them. But civil liberties groups say police often use Tasers on people who are merely unruly or disobedient, not dangerous. Recently, police officers in Miami shocked a 6-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl in separate incidents, prompting widespread criticism.

"The evidence suggests that far from being used to avoid lethal force, many police forces are using Tasers as a routine force option," said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International. "The way these weapons are being used in some circumstances could constitute torture or ill treatment."

Amnesty has called for police departments to stop using the guns pending an independent inquiry into their safety. The group will release a report next week documenting police abuse of Tasers, Mr. Goering said.

The growing use of Tasers is disconcerting because their risks have not been properly studied, biomedical engineers say. More than 70 people have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers, mainly from heart or respiratory failure.

Taser International says the deaths resulted from drug overdoses or other factors and would have occurred anyway. But coroners have linked several deaths to the weapons, and independent scientists who are authorities on electricity and the heart say that the company may be significantly underestimating the weapon's risks, especially in people who have used drugs or have heart disease.

Taser has performed only minimal research on the health effects of its weapons. Its primary safety studies on the M26, its most powerful gun, consist of tests on a single pig in 1996 and on five dogs in 1999. The company has resisted calls for more tests, saying that it is comfortable with the research it has conducted.

Tasers are largely unregulated and have never been studied for their safety or effectiveness by the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But for two years the Defense Department has studied Tasers as part of military research into weapons designed to be effective without being deadly.

In a press release on Oct. 18, Taser said that the military study had found its guns "generally effective without significant risk of unintended consequences."

Rick Smith, the chief executive of Taser, called the study "the latest chapter in a series of comprehensive medical and scientific studies which conclude that Taser technology is safe and effective."

Taser's stock, which closed at $37.47 on Oct. 15, the last trading day before the study was released, rose 60 percent over the next month and peaked at $60.85 on Nov. 15. During the week ended Nov. 12, Taser executives and directors sold 1.28 million shares for $68 million. The company's stock closed Wednesday at $50.51, down 89 cents.

But neither Taser nor the military released the full study, only an excerpt. The full study remains confidential, military officials say. But last week, after the symposium on less-deadly weapons in Winston-Salem, N.C., the Air Force laboratory that conducted the study said that it had not found Tasers were safe.

The guns "may cause several unintended effects, albeit with estimated low probabilities of occurrence," the laboratory said. "Available laboratory data are too limited to adequately quantify possible risks of ventricular fibrillation or seizures, particularly in susceptible populations."

Ventricular fibrillation is a disturbance of the electrical circuitry of the heart that causes cardiac arrest in seconds and death in minutes. Taser says that its weapons do not produce enough current to cause ventricular fibrillation, but scientists who are authoritative on fibrillation say that the company has not done enough research to know whether that contention is accurate.

Taser said Wednesday that the military had reviewed and approved its October statement before the company released it.

An Air Force scientist presented data at the symposium last week showing that repeated Taser shocks caused pigs to become acidotic - a dangerous condition in which the pH of the blood drops. A 1999 study by the Justice Department suggested that "deaths following Tasers' use may be due to acidosis."

People who have been hit repeatedly by Tasers should receive medical monitoring, said Dr. James Jauchem, the Air Force scientist. A spokeswoman for the Air Force said Wednesday that Dr. Jauchem was on vacation for Thanksgiving and not available for additional comments.

Dr. Jauchem also presented data calling into question the company's assertion that the Taser X26, its newest gun, is especially effective even though it fires a smaller charge than the company's older weapon, the M26. Taser has said that the X26 fires a special kind of electric pulse that works better than traditional stun guns.

But Dr. Jauchem said the shape of the X26's electric pulse had only a minor effect on the amount of muscle contraction it produced.

Taser falls on New York Times report

November 26, 2004
By Jim Jelter, CBS MarketWatch.com

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Shares of stun-gun maker Taser International tumbled Friday, hit by a New York Times report that raised new safety concerns about the company's main product line. The article in the New York Times, citing unpublished results of Air Force Research Laboratory tests, adds to a growing body of complaints over the use and safety of Taser's stun guns. According to the paper, the Air Force said at a symposium last week that Taser stun guns may be dangerous and require further testing. The Air Force's comments fly in the face of a recent federal study that called Taser's products "generally safe and effective." Company executives could not be reached for comment. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser markets its guns as nonlethal self-protection devices, with law enforcement agencies and security companies making up its biggest customer base. According to the company, its products send a nonlethal jolt of electricity to subdue the target body. But there has been a rash of complaints in recent months blaming Taser stun guns for accidental injuries, raising the specter of debilitating lawsuits. Taser shares have shed about 13 percent of their value in just the past two weeks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Expand Taser use, report urges

November 16, 2004
JEFF GRAY, Globe and Mail

But board chairwoman calls for study of long-term health effects of stun guns

A Toronto Police report says front-line sergeants should be given Taser stun guns to subdue suspects, but the chairwoman of the Police Services Board says more study is needed before the controversial weapons are rolled out.

The report, on the agenda for Thursday's Police Services Board meeting and signed by Chief Julian Fantino, dismisses safety concerns about the Taser, which uses an electrical charge to subdue suspects. Currently, only members of the force's emergency task force tactical squad are armed with the devices, usually used to deal with people the police refer to as "emotionally disturbed persons" -- often those who are drug-addled or mentally ill.

"Certainly, in my view, before we move too far down this road, we need to examine the long-term health effects of Taser use," said Councillor Pam McConnell, the police board chairwoman. She said she hopes to ask the city's medical officer of health for a report on the risks of Taser use.

The board is expected to receive the report, but not take any action on it.

The police report recommends buying more than 500 stun guns -- which deliver their electrical charge via a wire that hooks onto a suspect's clothes or skin -- at a cost of just over $1-million.

The report argues that front-line supervisors on patrol, not just the tactical squad, should have Tasers because by the time the ETF arrives -- sometimes 20 minutes or more after the call comes in -- it can be too late.

In one case, the report says, officers in 14 Division "were held at bay for over twenty-five minutes by an emotionally disturbed man brandishing a large knife" before the ETF arrived with Tasers at the ready. "At one point the man was literally chasing officers around a police vehicle in an attempt to force officers to shoot him," the report reads.

The report also suggests that the Toronto Police Service could be opening itself up to lawsuits if it fails to put Tasers in the hands of more officers, because the force could be held liable for deaths or injuries that would have been prevented had a Taser been handy.

Although used by thousands of police forces around the world and across Canada, including most in the GTA, the Taser remains controversial.

The RCMP, the Edmonton Police Service, the Calgary Police Service and the Vancouver Police Department allow front-line supervisors to use the weapons, and the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety recently changed its rules to allow front-line supervisors in the province to use the devices.

A major front-page article in a July edition of The New York Times investigated the safety record of Tasers and said 50 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being stunned by the devices. But the company that makes the weapons countered that the causes of death were drug overdoses, restraint asphyxia or other factors -- not the Taser.

The Toronto police report says no deaths have been conclusively linked to the Taser, "despite initial sensational media reports."

In the GTA, the Taser was ruled out as a factor in the death of 29-year-old Jerry Knight, a drugged-up and out-of-control boxer, subdued by Peel Regional Police using the device in July.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Taser Stun Guns the Target Of Growing Canadian Concern As Use Spreads

October 15, 2004

OTTAWA (CP) -- Canada's public safety minister has joined human-rights groups and some police officers urging a closer look at Taser stun guns. Abuse complaints about the way police use the weapons are mounting as the painful electric-shock devices become standard tools for law enforcement across Canada and the United States.

Many police hail the Taser for its potential to cut rates of injury and death during arrests. Critics say there's a dark side to this emerging alternative to deadly force.

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan says more should be known about a weapon that's being snapped up by police and correctional services.

"Whenever the policing community is using a tool, one wants to make sure that that tool is safe, that the people who are using it are well-trained and know what they're doing, and that there's no unnecessary infliction of harm on anyone,'' she said in an interview.

Jim Cessford, chief of the Delta, B.C., police force, said recent incidents in which people who were high on drugs died after being hit with a Taser have raised some new questions. "I think it's time that we need to have another look and see what's changed,'' said Cessford, who is helping oversee a national study of Taser use.

Another Canadian review has already called for changes.

Dirk Ryneveld, British Columbia's police complaints commissioner, recommended standard, provincewide Taser training for B.C. in an interim report released in September.

The report was ordered after Robert Bagnell of Vancouver became the fifth of six Canadians to die following a jolt from a Taser.

Ryneveld also called for mandatory reports whenever the weapons, which resemble snub-nosed hand guns, are used.

There are several areas in which "the training certainly could be standardized'' across police forces, said RCMP Const. Gregg Gillis, who teaches Mounties to use Tasers.

McLellan indicated her department is prepared to step in to work with the provinces and police on national standards for Taser use if they are needed. "I think that there may be a role (for the federal government),'' she said.

Coroners' inquests to be held over the next year will probe what role, if any, stun guns played in four B.C. deaths and two in Ontario _ all of them drug-related. The first, which will examine the death of Clay Alvin Willey, begins Monday in Prince George, B.C.

Tasers cause temporary loss of muscle control with a 50,000-volt zap that knocks most suspects off their feet. Often no lasting physical trace is left.

There is no national means of monitoring how and when the weapons are used.

At issue is the potential for police to abuse an otherwise valuable tool, wielding it against unarmed suspects who simply ignore commands or passively resist arrest.

There are also troubling questions about whether stun guns should be used against suspects whose hearts are overtaxed by drug use or a form of psychosis known as "excited delirium.''

Amnesty International says the contentious devices should be suspended pending more independent research.

As many as 60 people have died in the United States after being zapped, but Taser International stresses that not a single death has been directly or primarily blamed on its product.

"Our studies currently show the technology is safe,'' said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for the Arizona-based company. "It's a very humane system to stop somebody, without having to cause blunt trauma.''

The firm argues the device, which sells for $400 US and up depending on the model, has saved thousands of lives and has helped police forces reduce injuries to officers.

Even the most ardent critics say the Taser, introduced to Canadian policing by the Victoria force five years ago, has a role to play in life-threatening situations. (The name stands for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle, after a storybook that inspired its inventor.)

"If you have a police officer being attacked by somebody with a knife, then the Tasers _ no matter what the risks are _ they're far less than shooting the guy,'' says Edmonton criminal defence lawyer Tom Engel. "But some officers are using them like they're toys. And some are even using them . . . there's no other way to describe it other than torture.''

A Taser fires for up to five seconds and can be shot repeatedly. Two barbs attached to copper wires can connect from up to six metres away and will shock even through thick layers of clothing. A "touch stun'' can be used at close range, which one police trainer likened to "leaning against a hot stove.''

Taser International says its goal is to provide "non-injurious solutions to violent confrontation by developing products that enable law enforcement officers to protect themselves without causing injury or death to another human being.''

Rahim Hadani says that's not what happened the night his buddy died.

Roman Andreichikov, a buff personal trainer coming off a crack cocaine binge, was calm when four city police officers arrived at his Vancouver apartment on May 1, Hadani says. "He was just sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth.''

Hadani had called for paramedics because Andreichikov, paranoid and mumbling to himself, had been acting suicidal. Police came first to secure the scene. They entered the apartment with a Taser stun gun already drawn and aimed, Hadani says.

Andreichikov wasn't hurting himself or anyone else, he said. "I wouldn't have been in there if it wasn't a safe place to be.''

Andreichikov, 25, followed orders when the officers told him to lay face-down on the floor, his friend recalled.

"They kept saying: `Shoot him! Shoot him!' ''

When he suddenly flipped over to see what was going on, police stunned Andreichikov with a close-range shot to his bare chest, Hadani said.

"He was screaming because it was hurting so much.''

As the officers pounced to handcuff him, Andreichikov turned his head toward Hadani and said: "I can't breathe.'' He never regained consciousness.

A coroner's inquest into the death is pending.

The Vancouver Police Department did not respond to interview requests. But Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham has previously called the Taser a valuable tool, saying he's satisfied it is safe.

Less than two months after the Andreichikov incident, Robert Bagnell died June 23 in a cheap rooming hotel down the street. He stopped breathing soon after being Tasered in the throes of what police said was cocaine-induced psychosis.

Vancouver police waited a month to publicly reveal that Bagnell, 44, had been hit with a stun gun. By that time, they had a toxicology report that said the longtime drug addict had potentially lethal amounts of cocaine in his system.

Three coroners told The Canadian Press that there is in fact no standard minimum level beyond which cocaine intoxication is lethal. Tolerance of the drug varies too much from person to person, said Terry Smith, B.C.'s chief coroner.

Almost two months after Bagnell's death, police issued another statement saying a fire in the building had forced them to act quickly when the deranged man refused to leave.

Bagnell's neighbour and friend, Jack Ivers, scoffed at the explanation.

"It was a minor fire'' that was quickly doused on the main floor with little damage, he said. Bagnell and the police were four floors up.

Ivers, 64, says his friend needed medical help _ not a 50,000-volt shock.

"What irritates me is it had just happened a couple months previous to that down the street,'' he said, referring to Andreichikov's death. "They (the police) know the effect.''

Some 2,400 Tasers are now in the hands of more than 50 police and correctional services across Canada. A small number will be introduced into two maximum-security prisons by the end of 2005, says the Correctional Service of Canada.

It's difficult to know how often the weapons are used across Canada. Only fragmentary statistics have been made public.

"Federally we don't have anything right now,'' said Steve Palmer, executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre.

Internal RCMP statistics show Tasers have figured in about 400 incidents nationwide since they were first used in a field trial in Western Canada as part of an evaluation initiated in 2000, said Gillis.

Privacy laws have prevented the Mounties from widely circulating data about those incidents, he noted.

There is no consensus among police forces about when the Taser should be used.

"In different jurisdictions, people say Tasers are the last step prior to lethal force,'' says Palmer. "In others, they can be used with broader officer discretion.''

The research centre, a partnership of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP and the National Research Council, is leading a comprehensive review of Taser literature, field reports and other international data. The chiefs' association commissioned the study in August to probe continuing concerns. A final report is not expected for up to two years.

A clearer sense of how the Taser should best be used, as well as recommendations for standardized training, could emerge from the process, indicated the Delta police force's Cessford, who is also chairman of the police research centre's advisory board.

Training currently varies among police across Canada, says Gillis of the RCMP. Mounties spend from eight to 10 hours learning about how the device works - including three hours of hands-on use - as well as studying medical and tactical issues.

That's more than double the amount of time some departments allot for training, Gillis said.

He welcomed the interim recommendations from the B.C. complaints commissioner. The guidance will be valuable if it spurs forces to adopt higher, more consistent standards, he said.

"That's good . . . if it causes us all to take our various training packages out, place them on the table and open them up to being critiqued by everybody else, so that we can go back with a better product at the end of the day.''

The Taser is only meant for use against suspects who assault police or someone else, or who try to break away during an arrest, says Edmonton Police Const. Shawna Goodkey, a use-of-force specialist who trains officers to handle the stun guns.

"We don't use it on people that are co-operative, obviously,'' she said. "Or even people that just are sitting there and saying: `You know what? I'm not going to go with you.' ''

"We're looking at deploying it only on someone that is an active resister.''

Tasers have saved lives in Edmonton at least four times in the last four years but the force has not gathered related statistics, she said.

"It's definitely a worthwhile tool.''

New Democrat MP Libby Davies, whose East Vancouver riding includes the drug-plagued Downtown Eastside area where Andreichikov and Bagnell died, is not convinced.

She says it's time for the federal government to step in where police forces have failed to monitor Tasers.

"I think we need to have a national perspective on the use of these weapons,'' Davies said.

"Some of the situations that I've read about, I've found them really quite disturbing.''

McLellan says it's too soon to draw conclusions about what appears to be a valuable tool.

"I think while it is reasonable to have some concerns, and we need to learn more about whether those concerns are valid,'' she said, "I also think that one should not overreact and immediately suggest that somehow this is not a tool that the police should have available.''

McLellan expects the RCMP and other police forces to take the lead and determine whether current training practices are appropriate before politicians consider action.

As with many tools, knowledge comes from experience with them, she said.

"We learn both their strengths and their weaknesses and we try to deal with the weaknesses.''

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Florida police review policy after children shocked

November 14, 2004
Associated Press

Friday, November 12, 2004

Police used Taser gun to subdue 6-year-old student wielding piece of glass

November 12, 2004
Miami Herald

Miami-Dade police tasered a 6-year-old boy who was wielding a piece of glass in a school office and threatening to hurt himself, officials confirmed Thursday.

Police say they followed their own guidelines and only tasered the child because they were afraid he would hurt himself. But the incident has raised calls for the department tighten its policies regarding the use of the stun guns, which shoot 50,000 volts of electric current through a subject.

The incident happened on Oct. 20 at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School. The principal, Maria Mason, called 911 after the child, who has not been identified, broke a picture frame in the assistant principal's office. Then the boy began waving the piece of glass around, holding a security guard at bay.

Two Miami-Dade police officers responded, followed by a school police officer. When they got there, the boy already had a cut under his right eye and another on his hand from the glass. The three officers talked to the boy, trying to get him to put down the glass, according to a police report.

One of the officers slid a trash can to him, hoping he would throw the glass away if he didn't want to give it to any of the five adults there.

Then the officer contacted a supervisor to see if there was a policy specifically prohibiting the use of a stun gun on a child. There isn't, and the officer was told to do what she felt was necessary.

The two officers continued to try to talk to the child, who didn't respond.

Then he cut his own leg and the officers acted. One officer shocked him with the Taser while the other grabbed him, preventing him from falling on the ground.

The boy was treated by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue at the school and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was committed for psychiatric evaluation.

''By using the Taser, we were able to stop the situation, stop him from hurting himself,'' said police spokesman Juan DelCastillo. ``We inflicted no injuries on him. We were able to take him to the hospital and hopefully he's going to get the mental health attention he needs.

''Sure he could have been tackled and maybe injured, maybe his arm broken or maybe that glass could have cut him in a critical area,'' DelCastillo said.

Yet others in the community wondered why four adults -- the three officers and the security guard -- weren't able to control a 6-year-old without resorting to a stun gun.

Retired Broward County Juvenile Judge Frank Orlando, who now runs a law clinic on youth law at Nova Southeastern University, called the incident ``ridiculous.''

''It just sounds excessive to me to Taser gun a 6-year-old when everyone else around there were adults,'' he said. ``They couldn't subdue a 6-year-old? Must have been a pretty big kid.''

Police would not release any details on the size of the child. The department is reviewing the case.