published Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Agencies do not expect changes to Taser policies

by Jacqueline Koch
  • photo
    Thomas "Tom" Smith, chairman and co-founder of Taser International Inc., holds a Taser X3 Electronic Control Device, ECD, during an interview in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2009. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Stringent policies on Taser use here are why area law enforcement agencies don't plan to change their training methods in the wake of a recent federal appeals court ruling.

That court ruled unanimously in San Francisco on Dec. 28 that police need a reason to believe suspects are dangerous before stunning them with a Taser.

Chattanooga police already follow a use-of-force continuum that spells out what force an officer can deploy that must match a suspect's actions, officials have said.

"We already take into account that a Taser is not a cure-all," said Sgt. Mark Smeltzer, who oversees training for the Chattanooga Police Department.

He said the continuum is not a ladder, and steps don't necessarily have to be followed if a suspect is exhibiting threatening behavior. The officer's use of force must match the suspect's, he said.

"It's not the kind of thing that we train officers to pull out (a Taser) and this is the first thing that they use. ... (But) sometimes it is the appropriate action that (officers) have to go straight to," Sgt. Smeltzer said.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said officers can't use a Taser simply because a person is disobeying orders or acting erratically.


"We recognize the important role controlled electric devices like the TaserX26 can play in law enforcement. The ability to defuse a dangerous situation from a distance can obviate the need for more severe, or even deadly, force and thus can help protect police officers, bystanders and suspects alike. We hold only that the X26 and similar devices constitute an intermediate, significant level of force that must be justified by 'a strong government interest (that) compels the employment of such force.'"

Source: Bryan v. McPherson

In Catoosa County, Ga., Sheriff Phil Summers said he has no plans to change policy, as the ruling occurred in a different judicial district.

The main issue with the ruling was that the officer in California did not give verbal warnings before he used the Taser, the sheriff said.

"You always warn the individual and give verbal commands warning them to stop, warning them to not resist arrest, before you utilize alternative defense weapons," Sheriff Summers said. "... Defense weapons are to protect an officer against a suspect."

Taser use came under fire locally after a man being discharged from Erlanger hospital was shot by a hospital security guard and later died in November. Chattanooga police also used a Taser on a man in December at the Parkridge Medical Center emergency room after he became combative, police said.

The December federal appeals court ruling came after a San Diego-area man was shot with a Taser by an officer who stopped him for not wearing a seat belt.

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seyville said...

So does that "use of force continuum" allow for a taser to be used on someone simply because they keep talking after the officer has told them to be quiet, and concerned onlookers beg the officer not to deploy the taser because the woman has lung cancer? Yet he does so anyway, after using a few %%$# expletives anyway? A patient being discharged too weak to barely walk, let alone be a threat to the officer or anyone else for that matter? If so, then someone needs to go back and review that "use of force continuum" policy. Apparently, taser use is left up to the individual officer's "discretion" based on their whatever imagination they can come up with.

January 5, 2010 at 10:01 a.m.
Citizen2010 said...

Everyone needs to support the police and sheriffs departments, instead of trying to pick at everything that they do. I will be the first to admit that there are a lot of bad police officers who abuse their position, however the majority are honest hard working dedicated professionals who day after day do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, not because they pay is great or because they enjoy working in the blistering heat, freezing cold or pouring rain. They do it because they are good people who are willing to put their lives on the line for all of us. As far as tasers go in my opinion police officers need them they save lives. For example would you rather the police shoot and kill someone who is threatening them with a knife when the use of a taser could end the situation with the risk of serious injury drastically reduced. People need to be realistic the criminals already have more rights than us law abiding citizens and the police the Federal appeals court needs to be doing something other than making it harder for the police to do their jobs.

January 5, 2010 at 10:25 p.m.
pwd0502 said...

All i can say is you need to walk in that officers shoes before you are too quick to condemn.It is a tough job but someone has to do it.

January 5, 2010 at 10:37 p.m.
Exusiai said...


Perhaps you didn't read the stoy in question. The Man being discharged from the hospital was being combative!. IE he was Not only walking, he was... whats the word I'm looking for


Now as to the lung cancer thing, perhaps you could point me in the direction of that story?

January 5, 2010 at 10:39 p.m.
ann said...

OI do not think tasers should be used at all,we have a lot of inexperinced young men working on the force now and their scared and make by the book judgements and use a taser when a vetran officer would make a diffrent call,but people are not animals and should not be tased,that is utterly stupid in my thinking,they do not know what kind of health problems you have that could cause death from this,and you cant convince me that a child needs tased because its out of control,we need to be outraged with the things that are been made laws today,enough to have it where we can vote on these things instead of having it forced on us,can our people not make good comon sense laws today that help and not hurt,some of the officers would call speaking to them COMBATIVE,then you have some GREAT OFFICERS THAT WILL HELP ANY WAY THEY CAN THATS THE ONES WE NEED

January 5, 2010 at 10:58 p.m.
Exusiai said...

Ok, fine Ann

We'll take away the tasers that leaves the cops with their guns. And All police officials are trained to shoot to kill

So lets see Taser: Non lethal Gun: Lethal

Your right I Love your solution better!

January 7, 2010 at 7:57 a.m.
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