WAVELAND, Miss. — The mayor of this small Mississippi Gulf coast city has taken Tasers out of the hands of the city's police officers.
Mayor David Garcia issued the order to Chief James Varnell after several lawsuits alleging Taser abuse by officers were filed in U.S. District Court.
Garcia confirmed three lawsuits were filed against the police department last week.
He said he told Varnell on Thursday night, “Let’s pick up the Tasers.”
Varnell is cooperating fully, Garcia said. “Jimmy’s working with the problems,” he said.
Garcia said his actions are not an admission of guilt for the department, but he aims to bring about some changes based on residents’ complaints he has heard.
“We’ve got to make it a people-friendly department,” he said. “The lawsuits, we’ve got to stop that.”
Garcia, who served as a Hancock County deputy off and on from 1978 to 2005, said he understands the side of the citizens and also of the officers sworn to protect and serve.
The Tasers will be removed from the department indefinitely while he and Varnell revisit officers’ training, and departmental policies on frequency and use of Tasers.
Attorney Brian Alexander on Wednesday had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dawn Melissa Daigre, who claims police tased her and broke her nose in February when she was four months’ pregnant.
“This is a great first step,” he said. “It’s long overdue. They should have done this a long time ago.”