Law enforcement agencies should not be handcuffed with restrictions on the use of lawful and effective crime-fighting tools.
The September death of Derrick Humbert after he was shot with a Taser by a Bradenton police officer brought questions from a civil rights organization about the use of stun guns. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference also questions the Bradenton Police Department’s strategy of stopping citizens on such minor infractions as walking on the wrong side of the street or riding a bicycle at night without a light, and profiling black citizens.
Two police officers attempted to stop Humbert for riding a bicycle at night without a headlight, a violation of state law, but Humbert ignored orders to stop and fled. One of the pursuing officers caught up with Humbert and again commanded him to stop. Again ignored, the officer deployed the Taser and hit Humbert in the back and shoulder.
The incident report states that Humbert was conscious, talking and breathing after being stunned. Paramedics examined the 38-year-old Bradenton resident before taking him to Manatee Memorial Hospital for medical clearance before jailing. But while en route, Humbert fell into respiratory arrest, and he died at the hospital.
The medical examiner determined Humbert had an enlarged heart and could find no evidence that the Taser contributed to his death. The coroner also found a significant amount of cocaine in his system. Humbert’s death was ruled accidental.
On the night in question, the two officers were participating in a special detail the BPD launched recently that targets minor offenses for field interviews, all part of a strategy to prevent more serious crimes. The department deploys officers to neighborhoods with a spike in burglaries or robberies.
This aggressive approach to crime fighting should be saluted, not attacked. The Bradenton Police Department has performed an admirable job of corralling crime during a tough economic downturn.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Bradenton Herald.