Lawrence Police Department report of Taser usage released

From swords to infected blood, Lawrence police officers had multiple reasons to deploy their Tasers in 2010, according to a new report from City Hall.

They also had a couple of reasons to get a little additional training with the devices as well.

New police chief Tarik Khatib delivered his first annual report on Taser usage to city commissioners on Tuesday, and said a 3-year-old program to add Tasers to the department had been a success.

“Tasers really do help us take people into custody who are becoming aggressive or physically combative,” Khatib said. “A lot of times in that situation (without Tasers) we would have to go hands on or roll around on the ground with the suspect. That’s not a good situation either for the officer or the person we’re trying to apprehend.”

In 2010, Lawrence police officers used their Tasers on suspects eight times. That’s up from two times in 2009. The department found all eight incidents to be justified and within the department’s policy, but Khatib said three of the instances perhaps could have been avoided by using a different philosophy. Khatib ordered additional Taser training for all police officers to review the department’s philosophy that Tasers are best used to prevent a physical attack on an officer or other person rather than simply as a tool to apprehend someone who is resisting arrest.

“We found all of them to be legal and within our policy, but we thought perhaps other methods could have been used in three of these cases,” Khatib said.

The three cases were:

• April 6, when a police sergeant attempted to use the Taser to stop a passenger who was suspected in an aggravated robbery case from fleeing on foot from a vehicle.

• May 4, when police officers used a Taser on a driver of a vehicle twice after the driver, who was suspected of reckless driving and had attempted to allude police, refused to exit his car.

• June 2, when officers use the Taser on an individual suspected of domestic violence. The individual ran from police and eventually went back into his trailer house where he grabbed his mother and used her as a shield between himself and the officers. An officer eventually got behind the individual and used a Taser to get him to release the woman.

The other five cases that officers used Tasers were:

• Jan. 21, when officers used a Taser on a man who brandished a sword. Officers were checking on the welfare of the man when he emerged from his room with a sword and refused to put it down after being ordered to do so several times.

• Jan. 23, when officers used a Taser on an individual who became suicidal while being transported to Lawrence Memorial Hospital via ambulance. The individual pulled a knife and held it to his stomach and then began slashing his leg.

• March 7, when officers used a Taser on a suspect who brandished a gun and began chasing a car on foot. The suspect became cornered in a parking lot, and when told to show his hands reached inside his jacket pocket.

• May 8, when officers responded to a suicidal person at LMH’s emergency room who had been found in need of involuntary commitment to a state mental hospital. The patient had deep cuts on his arms and removed the bandages and begun bleeding on the floor. He announced that he had a highly contagious blood disease and made statements that he was willing to infect officers and others if they tried to take him to the state hospital. Officers used a Taser on the individual after he could not be convinced to allow medial personal to reapply the bandages.

• Sept. 16, when an officer used a Taser twice after an individual suspected of driving while intoxicated struck an officer in the head and then continued to flee on foot. The first use of the Taser was ineffective. Officers used the Taser again when the suspect began to hit the officer again.

The annual Taser report is required by City Manager David Corliss as part of the police department’s Taser policy. Corliss said he approved of the report’s findings and also said he was approving $14,000 in purchases that will add 16 new Tasers to the department’s supply.