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Friday, November 28, 2008

Suspension for taser abuse - cop docked 90 hours for using weapon on two sleeping men

November 28, 208
Steve Lillebuen, The Edmonton Journal

A veteran Edmonton police officer who used a Taser on two sleeping men has been handed a 90-hour suspension in a strongly worded indictment on abuse of the controversial weapon.

Const. Jeffrey Resler pleaded guilty to using his Taser seconds after entering a Cromdale Hotel room in 2003, but he blamed his misconduct on stress caused by a bitter divorce.

In a written internal disciplinary decision released this week, Supt. Mark Logar ruled the officer had no authority to arrest or detain the two men.

"Tasers are to be used only in exceptional and truly necessary circumstances," he wrote. "Members of the service expect this and the citizens of Edmonton have every right to demand it. There is therefore every need to impose a penalty that firmly denounces the improper use of the Taser."

In a joint submission, defence lawyer Alex Pringle and the presenting officer had argued for a 60-hour suspension, but that was lengthened by an additional 30 hours in the decision.

On Nov. 27, 2003, Resler joined three other officers in responding to an armed robbery call at the Cromdale Hotel. They were met at the hotel by a man who said he had been accosted by a native man armed with a knife and asking for money. The hotel manager couldn't confirm whether the suspect was still hiding in the hotel, but the officers decided to search the second floor. In one room, a man was found hiding. He didn't respond to police and tried to grab something from under a blanket, so Resler deployed the Taser. No misconduct was alleged in that incident.

But in a second hotel room minutes later, Resler spotted three men -- none of whom matched the suspect description. He deployed the Taser on two of the sleeping men, identified as Patrick Marshall and Robert Stewart. "He was too quick to reach for his Taser," Logar wrote. "Why indeed should (these two men) suffer physical pain because of Const. Resler's divorce?"

During his disciplinary hearing, several officers testified that Resler has excelled at work in the robbery section since the Taser incident. He had no prior disciplinary decisions against him at the time and the ruling pointed out that the misconduct appears to have been an isolated incident on his police record.

A 12-year veteran, Resler was experienced in the Tactical Section when his marriage fell apart and he requested to be transferred back to patrol, his defence lawyer said. Two days later, he was sent to the Cromdale Hotel for the robbery call.

Presenting officer Derek Cranna withdrew four of six charges on the first day of Resler's disciplinary hearing. No reason was given. Resler pleaded guilty to the remaining two charges.

In 2006, Resler was acquitted in provincial court on assault charges from the same incident. Judge Robert Philp ruled that the testimony of several witnesses was "at times contradictory, confusing and unclear."

The Edmonton Police Service changed its use of force policy that year to clarify that officers can no longer use Tasers on people who are sleeping.

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