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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vermont State Police to make revisions to Taser policy

October 22, 2011
Burlington Free Press

The Vermont State Police agreed to change its policy regarding Tasers following an incident with a 23-year-old Northeast Kingdom man with a disability.

The policy revision was prompted by a complaint about using a Taser on the uncooperative man April 6, officials said. The state police also agreed to pay a small financial settlement as part of the complaint filed by Disability Rights Vermont, a protection and advocacy organization.

A.J. Ruben, a supervising attorney for Disability Rights Vermont, declined to release terms of the signed financial settlement, which he acknowledged is public record. Ruben said the family asked him not to release the name of the victim or the settlement amount, which he termed "not large." He said the case was more about getting the state police Taser policy modified for people with disabilities and not about the payment to his client.

The Burlington Free Press filed a public-records request Friday afternoon with the state police Friday afternoon to determine the cost to taxpayers. The request is pending.

Ruben said the policy changes will save taxpayers money by avoiding future incidents.

In a joint statement, state police and rights group outlined the following:

Troopers responded to a home April 6 at the request of developmental services and mental health professionals. The man with disabilities including Down syndrome, was told by care providers that he needed to be taken to a new placement. He refused to get dressed and accompany the caregivers. When troopers arrived, they attempted to escort the man from the home, but he pulled away. Trooper Paul Mosher, who is assigned to the Derby barracks, deployed his Taser. Then the man was helped into his care provider's vehicle, evaluated at the emergency room, released uninjured and transported to the new placement.

Changes to state police policy regarding Tasers includes placing people with cognitive impairments in a category that requires special consideration before use of a Taser, and the devices will be used only if the person is armed and presents a risk of harm, or if there are no other reasonable alternatives to maintaining safety or taking the person into custody.

"We are pleased with the outcome and the spirit of cooperation in working ... to create a policy that will help protect citizens with disabilities, while providing more clearly defined direction for our troopers," Col. Tom L'Esperance, director of the state police, said in a statement.

Ruben said in a statement: "The actions taken by the state police, including the change of policy, are progress in the continuing effort to restrict the use of the Taser against individuals with disabilities for non-threatening disability-related behavior."

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