The latest 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on stun guns such as Tasers should cause California's law enforcement agencies to get beyond the current patchwork of practices.
The court reiterated three core standards for using stun guns:
• What is the severity of the crime at issue?
• Does the suspect pose an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others?
• Is the suspect actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by fleeing?
In the case at hand, a city of Coronado police officer stopped a 21-year-old for not wearing a seat belt, a minor violation. The young man got out of his car and was yelling gibberish to himself and hitting his thighs. Though he certainly was agitated, the young man did not argue with or verbally threaten the officer, attempt to flee or advance toward the officer (who was standing 20 feet away). The young man was dressed only in tennis shoes and boxer shorts, obviously unarmed.
Without first issuing a warning – that if he did not get inside his car he would be shot with a Taser – the officer fired. The young man, muscles paralyzed, fell face-first, shattering four front teeth and cutting his face.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.