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Federal court restricts Taser use by police

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Joel Rubin and Richard Winton
LA Times
Wednesday, Dec 30th, 2009

A federal appeals court this week ruled that a California police officer can be held liable for injuries suffered by an unarmed man he Tasered during a traffic stop. The decision, if allowed to stand, would set a rigorous legal precedent for when police are permitted to use the weapons and would force some law enforcement agencies throughout the state — and presumably the nation — to tighten their policies governing Taser use, experts said.

Michael Gennaco, an expert in police conduct issues who has conducted internal reviews of Taser use for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies, said the ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals prohibits officers from deploying Tasers in a host of scenarios and largely limits their use to situations in which a person poses an obvious danger.

“This decision talks about the need for an immediate threat. . . . Some departments allow Tasers in cases of passive resistance, such as protesters who won’t move,” he said. Tasering for “passive resistance is out the door now with this decision. Even resistance by tensing or bracing may not qualify.”

The weapons, which resemble handguns, can be fired from about 20 feet away and project two dartlike electrodes. The electrodes send an electrical charge coursing through the target — a shock that temporarily paralyzes the person’s muscles and causes extreme pain. Almost all of the stun guns used by law enforcement agencies in the United States are manufactured by Taser International Inc., including the one fired in the current case.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 10:13 am





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