Connecticut Lawmakers Want Police Training, Reporting on Tasers

Bills pending before the General Assembly were proposed following recent Taser deaths in this state. But the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association says the bills could increase the risk of lawsuits against police departments.

Proposals to impose new rules on the use of Tasers by police are drawing criticism from the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, which says the state should not impose such rules on individual police departments.

Enacting a law on how police use Tasers, or stun guns, could make local departments vulnerable to lawsuits from those subjected to stun gun use, the association said in testimony during a General Assembly public hearing on one of the bills last month.

“The Association feels that the legislature ought not to be creating such an invitation to litigate against our municipalities or our State,” the group said in its written testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security.

The move for standards on the use of Tasers comes after at least two highly-publicized deaths in Connecticut of people who were Tasered by police, one of them a Middletown man, 35-year-old Efrain Carrion, who died in 2010 after police in that city used a Taser on him during his arrest.

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House Bill 6014, An Act Concerning the Safe Use of Electronic Defense Weapons, is one of two pieces of legislation introduced this session that seek to regulate the use of Tasers by police. It was filed by State Rep. Lawrence Butler, D-Waterbury, following the death in that city in 2011 of 26-year-old Marcus Brown, who died after he was Tasered by police.

Butler’s bill would require police to seek medical attention for anyone Tasered and for police to file reports when using their stun guns on a suspect. It is similar to House Bill 6628, submitted by the legislature's Judiciary Committee staff, which also calls for training of police on Tasers and would require medical attention for anyone stunned by a Taser gun.

"It's just a common sense thing to have somebody who was Tasered be examined by medical people," Butler told the Connecticut Mirror.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut supports the measures, saying police use of Tasers has killed 11 people in this state since 2005 and that department policies on the use of stun guns “vary widely” among local police departments. Stun guns are also disproportionately used on minorities, the ACLU says in written testimony to the committee.

“All of these cases, both fatal and non-fatal, have taught us that we need standardized training for police officers who use Tasers. They also demonstrate a need for more information about the way Tasers are being used.”

The police chiefs association, however, says the development of such standards should be left up to experts, such as the Police Officers Standards and Training Council and the Connecticut Police Academy.

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