Monday, October 15

A Closer Look: UC campuses exhibit varied Taser usage guidelines


Of the University of California campuses whose police
departments use Tasers, the university police department at UCLA
has the one of the most flexible policies regarding the use of
Tasers.

According to UCPD’s Taser use guidelines, a Taser may be
used on a person in drive-stun mode “for pain compliance
against passive resistors.”

Tasers are in use at six UC campuses, but no other campus allows
officers to use a Taser on a passive resistor, and in most cases, a
person must present an active threat to the officer or other
individuals in order for officers to use the weapon.

At UC Irvine, university police have had Tasers for seven or
eight years.

The decision to use a Taser is left in large part with the
officers on the scene, Detective Shaun Devlin said. The Taser is in
the same line of force as pepper spray and batons, so officers
would be justified in using a Taser in a situation when it is
appropriate to use the baton or pepper spray.

While Tasers are often used to subdue people who have violated
laws, they can also be used on individuals who are
“experiencing mental crises” or “distressed and
disturbed,” such as people who are suicidal or want to
inflict injury upon themselves, Devlin said.

Devlin added that Tasers are safer than other devices because
they help avoid long-term injury that can result from other
weapons, such as the baton.

Police officers are instructed to aim the baton at bony parts of
the body, which can cause pain and bone fracture. However, with the
Taser, more people recover fully within a minute, Devlin said.

He did acknowledge that Tasers can cause injury when used
inappropriately.

“(There is) a risk of injury no matter what tools, what
method the officers use,” Devlin said.

UC Santa Barbara’s police department is considering buying
Tasers, but has not yet gotten final approval.

Matt Bowerman, community relations and training officer for the
department, said it is very interested in having Tasers, especially
for use during hand-to-hand combat.

UC Berkeley police have never had Tasers, according to Andrew
Garvin, student advocate at Associated Students UC Berkeley.

But there were small protests last week on the UC Berkeley
campus regarding the UCLA incident, and a letter was submitted by
the students to Robert Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley chancellor,
saying students do not want Tasers to be used by police.

University police at UC Berkeley responded by saying that it
“wasn’t prudent” for UC Berkeley police to adopt
Tasers, and they do not plan to use them in the future.

Lt. Nader Oweis from university police at UC Davis said his
department has used Tasers since 2000, but to his knowledge a Taser
has never been used on a student. Oweis said before UC Davis
officers use Tasers, or any other weapon, they must take into
account the totality of the situation, and any use of force is
possible as long as the officers think it is within reason.

Factors to consider when choosing type of force include conduct
of the individual in question, whether he or she has any weapons,
and danger to officers and other people.

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