Tough Crowd Reviews Taser Policy
St. Petersburg, Fla., Police Chief Chuck Harmon invited several dozen community leaders, a school district official, a homeless coalition advocate, and neighborhood association presidents to a six-hour meeting on Oct. 1 to review his proposed Taser policy, which was being made public for the first time.
Harmon has already decided to order about 400 of the Tasers and plans to train officers by early next year, although he has not decided the circumstances under which officers can use the weapons. According to his plan, officers generally may use the Tasers–which can deliver a five-second, 50,000-volt shock–when someone is showing “aggressive resistance” or is actively fighting a police officer. However, officers could use Tasers if the initial attempt to take a suspect into custody failed, if a subject was trying to hurt himself, or if a person who committed a felony was running away.
Police officers would not be allowed to use the Tasers on anyone who is showing only “verbal or passive physical resistance,” is obviously pregnant, elderly, or known to be suffering from heart disease or a serious medical condition, unless there were extraordinary circumstances. In addition, Harmon’s policy states that Tasers should not be used on anyone under the age of 12.
During the meeting, Harmon said that he waited to buy Tasers for the St. Petersburg Police Department–which is one of the last large Florida law enforcement agencies to buy the devices–because he did not know why some people died after Tasers were used on them. Most of the 129 U.S. and Canadian deaths of people stunned by Tasers were the result of drugs, pre-existing heart problems, or “excited delirium, ” a psychotic and typically drug-induced state in which the heart is prone to cardiac arrest. \
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the St. Petersburg Times (FL) (10/02/05) P. 1B; Thompson, Jamie .