News

One man 'Tased,' seven others give up fast

Police Department issues report covering first three months of Taser possession

In the first three months Palo Alto police carried Tasers, officers stunned one man and pointed the electronic stun guns at seven other people, according to a quarterly report released by the Police Department.

Sometime between Sept. 27 and Dec. 31, 2007, police zapped a 66-year-old man who was asking officers to shoot him. The department had received a call from a Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System nurse, who was struggling to deal with a man suffering from mental health problems.

When officers arrived at the residence, the man physically attacked one officer and was then Tased, according to the report, written by Assistant Chief Dennis Burns.

The man, who is white, was taken to Stanford Hospital for an exam, which he passed, and transferred to the Veterans Affairs hospital for mental health treatment, Burns wrote.

The other seven times officers drew their Tasers and provided a warning, but "the subjects complied with officers' commands as soon as the Taser was pulled and pointed at them," Burns wrote.

"This is exactly what staff had hoped for," he said.

The Taser uses, which also took place between Sept. 27 and Dec. 31, include:

* Palo Alto officers assisted Mountain View police to arrest a violent parolee in a local hotel. After the Taser was pointed at him, the Hispanic male adult complied.

* Receiving a call about a man walking down the middle of the street without a shirt and with his pants down, officers found a white male adult believed to be under the influence who wouldn't respond to their commands. Threatened with the Taser, he complied.

* After hearing that a man was annoying students at Palo Alto High School, officers found a white adult male who would not obey them. One officer used a Taser to "cover" the other officer who arrested the man.

* An African-American male was spotted weaving while riding his bicycle. The man began running when approached by officers. After running about 200 yards, he turned around and ran toward the officers. The officer pulled out a Taser and the man surrendered. He was charged with bicycling while intoxicated.

* Officers were called to deal with an Asian male adult who was staggering down the street. The man did not initially comply with officers but obeyed after a Taser was pointed at him

* A white male adult escaped from the Stanford Hospital Emergency Room where he had been brought because he was considered a danger to himself. An officer spotted the man, who would not obey commands. A Taser was pointed and another officer took the man into custody.

* Hearing about a fight at a hotel, officers found an Asian male adult and a Hispanic male adult physically fighting. A Taser was used to break up the fight.

The department owns 100 Tasers, equipped with cameras that turn on automatically.

Burns said each officer's Taser camera is inspected quarterly. The department plans to issue quarterly reports about Taser use, but has said it will not discuss Taser use immediately after an incident.

Comments

Posted by Hulkamania, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2008 at 7:47 am

The report indicates Tasers are very effective in stopping suspects in their tracks and reducing injuries to suspects and officers. The Taser has proved to be a cost effective tool. Good decision on their deployment.


Posted by observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2008 at 8:22 am

The current data reinforces that initial claims of the palo alto police that there would be low use of these devices, which seems to be likely from this first quarterly report. It would appear that a Taser might be discharged less than ten times a year in Palo Alto. This makes the decision a good one--regardless of the hysteria that a small number of people introduced into this process.

If one tracks the use of Tasers nationally, there is a disturbing trend for police departments which have had these devices in the field for a while to become cavalier in their use. There are reports weekly in the news documenting Taser abuse. It has become clear that the claims of police that the Taser is used when a "force escalation" is required that is more than the use of "physical" and less than the use of "deadly force" have turned out to be incorrect. Many police are using them on people who do not "comply" as quickly as an officer might like--and all too frequently the officer is not in any danger that would require a "force escalation."

However, pointing a Taser is a lot different than using it--which is what has been the concern of those opposed to the devices. There have been cases of police using these devices on their own partners when the two officers have become engaged in personal disputes; there have been a number of lawsuits against police departments for too aggressive use of the devices, however the media rarely seem to report on the outcomes of these court actions.

The article suggests that the officers are using the Tasers a little too soon--according to these "rules of engagement"--which palo alto police were claiming when proposing these devices originally.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2008 at 9:16 am

Why are the names of the offenders withheld? Isn't that information that should be released to the public? They seem to be willing to release the ethnic background of everyone. Were they all residents of Palo Alto or were the majority from other towns or states?


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