Since the Taser first came into wide use with police departments in the United States and around the world, there have been ongoing debates about the ‘less-lethal’ weapon, its use, deployment, and appropriateness in various situations. Police loved it, because it gave them an intermediate step before a lethal force that could still incapacitate an assailant, but not everyone was a fan of their new electric toy.
However, the citizenry was not always excited by the use of the weapon, or how it was used and the situations that it was deemed ‘appropriate’ for. In Cincinnati on Monday, an off-duty member of the Cincinnati Police Department utilized his Taser to stop and incapacitate a young girl he suspected of stealing from a local Kroger grocery store. What was he thinking, and why would he use such an extreme tactic on an 11-year-old?
He confronted one girl, an 11-year-old, who ignored the officer and continued to walk away from him after he had called out to her.
The off-duty security officer then drew and fired his taser which struck her in the back.
The 11-year-old girl was then arrested on charges of theft and obstructing official business.
She was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for evaluation, then released into her parents’ custody.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said that there needs to be a “complete investigation” of what happened. Smitherman, the chairman of the city council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, said that he found it difficult to understand what would lead someone so young to be Tased.
He also said that he expected results and answers within 24 hours.
The officer, whose name has not yet been released to the public, has been placed on restricted duty until the completion of the investigation into his conduct and use of the Taser.
CPD Chief Isaac said that it was extremely worrying to see the Taser deployed on someone so young and that as a result, the department would be taking a very thorough review of its policies concerning the use of force on juveniles.
Current CPD policy on the use of Tasers says that they are meant to be used for self-defense or to “temporarily immobilize” someone who is actively resisting arrest.
The Taser is designed to deliver an electrical current to the target which physically incapacitates them and renders them unable to control their muscle movement.
Cincinnati Police’s policy on using the Taser also states that officers should attempt to not use it on women who are pregnant (they term it as ‘obviously pregnant females’) or to individuals under the age of seven or over the age of 70 due to the potential that they could fall and hurt themselves.
The only caveat for the use of the Taser on such people is if the encounter rises to the level of a ‘deadly force situation.’
This is not the first time in recent years that Cincinnati’s police officers have had an issue with the appropriate use of force.
The officer involved in the infamous shooting of David ‘Bones’ Hebert, police sergeant Andrew Mitchell, had been sued for using his Taser on a teenage boy in 2008 but was not been removed from duty. In that case, he Tased the young man in the back of the head from his car without warning, while the youth, Christopher Bauer, was listening to his iPod via earbuds.
A nearby police force, the North College Hill Police, also settled a Taser case, which led to the death of a 35-year-old man.
This brings up another apparent problem with some Cincinnati officers: a claimed tendency for officers to not lose their jobs for issues related to brutality.
The officer who Tased Mr. Bauer? He was promoted to sergeant after the event even though it was widely accepted to be an example of police brutality.
The life of a police officer is difficult, and for good officers, a Taser is a wonderful tool that can keep them safe and allow them to stop struggling suspects with less application of force.
However, in the hands of the lazy or the dishonest, it is prone to abuse and can do damage to people who should not be Tased and to the trust between the police and the citizens.
It will be interesting to see what the investigation turns up, but there are very few situations where it’s conceivably reasonable for an officer to use such a weapon on someone so young.