Portland City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade ordered a review of the city police’s taser use and the finding suggest officers should practice more restraint. According to OregonLive.com, policy should be changed to reflect such restraint and the necessity of officers to use a minimum number of cycles when the tasers are employed.
The audit covered 50 random Taster uses in 2009. In 1/5 of the cases officers fired more than one cycle to gain control of the situation. A cycle lasts 5 seconds and although compliance is said to increase with each successive cycle, the risk for injury certainly does as well.
The report suggested that four or more cycles were used in an estimated 20% of cases. That is more than 20 seconds of continuous high voltage electricity. And while the circumstances surrounding each case are not known, it seems pretty excessive.
Part of the audit’s goal was to compare Portland procedures and practices to other departments across the country. It found that in most cities the Taser is only authorized for use when a suspect actively resists, providing aggressive physical action in response to police. In Portland, Taser use is authorized when mere intent to resist is shown.
In other words, if the police think you appear like you might resist their actions, they can use a Taser. Also, Portland doesn’t require medical attention be given after each Taser deployment, another difference from other major cities.
In addition to these points of interest, the audit uncovered police supervisors neglecting to fill out “after-action” reports, required after a use of force. Officer’s use of force reports were also often missing supervisor signatures and officers didn’t document their warnings towards suspects given before firing their Taser.
While Taser incidents have dropped in the city, falling to 320 in 2009, the ACLU and various others are calling on the Department to tighten their Taser standards to at least measure up to similar cities across the country.
One community, Ashland, is the only Oregon department to adapt the strictest policy recommended, one which calls on officers to use a Taser only in incidences where “there’s a likelihood the situation will escalate to a need for deadly force.” This should leave out typical arrest for disorderly conduct.
When looked at in light of the number of arrests per day in Portland, Taser use is relatively minimal, as it should be. Most arrests are rather uneventful. However, when force is used or when the police do act out of line, it should be taken very seriously.
Whether you were a victim of Taser use or you are simply facing criminal charges for which you don’t believe there’s any justification—contact me today. I can give you a free consultation on your criminal case and we can discuss your options.