Tri-City Police Departments React to ACLU Taser Use Report

By: 10/11 Central Nebraska News; Courtesy: City of Kearney, Courtesy: KSNB Hastings Email
By: 10/11 Central Nebraska News; Courtesy: City of Kearney, Courtesy: KSNB Hastings Email

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska claims members of Nebraska law enforcement are misusing tasers. The report cited incidents in Hastings, Grand Island and Kearney.

Hastings and Grand Island Police Departments both said that the report contains missing information. Both departments also said they believe that the use of tasers has declined over the past few years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska is calling the use of tasers by the state's law enforcement dangerously out of bounds.

The report investigates 11 police departments from January 2013 to May 2014. The ACLU determined that in 47 out of 63 cases the use of tasers was inappropriate.

Captain Dean Elliot with the Grand Island Police Department said they only use tasers when needed.

"It is a tool, it's no different than an officer carrying a night stick, no different than an officer going hands on with someone," said Elliot.

Captain Elliot said the number of incidents has actually decreased over the past few years. The department's force reports shows in 2012, there were 24 taser deployments. In 2013, there were 17 and so far this year there have been 5.

The report cited incidents in Grand Island, Kearney and Hastings. It says a woman with a mental illness in Grand Island was tasered while sitting down.

But Captain Elliot said the woman had been attacking the officer and the officer was unaware of her mental state.

"Unfortunately for the officer in the heat of moment split second decisions these people are not wearing a sign that says they are mentally ill and we should treat them with kid gloves, mentally ill can hurt the general public just like anyone who is in their right mind," Elliot said.

From January of 2013 to May of 2014 the Hastings Police Department deployed tasers 10 times. The report says a man in Hastings was tasered in retaliation for spitting on officers.

But Sergeant Steven Murphy says the report does not include the fact that the man had hepatitis C.

"I think if somebody knows that have a serious communicable disease and spits on a police officer that's to me an act of aggression," Murphy said. In fact, it's considered a felony in Nebraska.

Some departments are upset because the numbers are from the 2013-2014 time period, but most of the stories released in the ACLU report are from years ago.

"I'm confused as to why they would mention an incident from 2007 instead of the time period they say."

But Tyler Richard with the ACLU said they included the stories because they had not been shared with the public before.

Local officers undergo extensive training to use tasers. Even tasing themselves as part of the process.

The incident cited from Kearney claims that a 10 year old child was tasered in a public school.

Kearney Police declined to be interviewed, but they did release a statement. The City of Kearney says the Kearney Police Department will be reviewing the ACLU Taser Use Report to see if there are ways they can improve their use of less lethal force.

The Kearney Police Department says the department takes the use of the Taser and other uses of force very seriously. Any time Police Officers have to use force against a citizen, it is extensively reviewed by Police administration and supervisors. Officers on the Kearney Police Department receive an initial certification in the use of the Taser and then they are required to recertify with the Taser every year. The Kearney Police Department has three “Taser” certified instructors which provide the training for the Department.

The Kearney Police Department says the ACLU Report also reported an incident of when a 10 year-old public school student was Tasered. There was a mistake on the use of force report that was given to the ACLU and the actual age of the student was 14 years-old. That incident was extensively covered by the media in November 2013.

No other comments will be issued until Kearney Police Department Administration has a chance to review the ACLU report


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