February 4, 2019 / 11:08 AM / 9 months ago

Factbox: U.S. communities rethinking Taser use after deaths

(Reuters) - Reuters has documented a total of at least 1,081 U.S. deaths following use of police Tasers, almost all since the weapons began coming into widespread use in the early 2000s. In many of those cases the Taser was combined with other force, such as hand strikes, pepper spray or restraint holds.

In 2018, at least 49 people died after being shocked by police with a Taser. Reuters contacted 14 police departments, counties and cities that saw a Taser-related or other serious Taser-related incident last year. Of those, five cases are still under review and officials would not comment. Five others, including San Mateo, California, say they are conducting reviews of their Taser policies. They include:

LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

One of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, the LASD drafted a new Taser policy last year that would place new restrictions on the weapon’s deployment, according to an official familiar with the initiative. The updated draft guidelines clarify that the weapon should not be used as a pain compliance tool, and seeks to largely limit its use to cases where a suspect is a danger to others, the officer or themselves. That updated draft policy is under review by the department’s new leadership, which took over in November.

CINCINNATI

The Cincinnati Police Department is reviewing its Taser policy after an 11-year-old girl was shocked in August last year, said Lt. Steve Saunders, a spokesman. A Cincinnati police officer Tasered Donesha Gowdy in a grocery store after she fled following his command to stop shoplifting. The city paid the girl’s family $220,000 to settle a claim of excessive force, according to the family attorney Al Gerhardstein.

CHULA VISTA, CALIFORNIA

In Chula Vista an automatic review is under way following the death of Jason Watts, 29, who died in October after police shocked him in a confrontation at a store, spokesman Capt. Phil Collum said.

SAN FRANCISCO

Public discourse over Tasers’ safety has been especially heated in San Francisco, where the Board of Supervisors voted in June to block funding for the police department’s long-debated plan to purchase the weapons. The San Francisco police department had requested Tasers for years but had been blocked from doing so. Last year, the city’s police commission voted to approve their use, but that decision is now in limbo after city supervisors voted to block funding three months later.

Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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