Psychiatric patients get first taste
of Shorewood's Taser gun policy

Village P.D. experience does not refute criticism of 'shock' weapon nationally

SHOREWOOD, Wis. (Dec. 18, 2004) -- When police asked the Village Board for money to buy Taser guns, the argument was that the shock-inducing weapons would allow officers to subdue suspects in dangerous situations without killing them.

But village documents obtained by reveal that to date the controversial technology has only been used to subdue two mentally ill residents when officers were otherwise unable to control them. One of those residents was already in custody and in jail a cell and naked. Nevertheless, police used the shock gun three times because the man did not respond to their orders to get dressed "despite numerous requests."

Shorewood Police Department Incident No. 04-025208 reports that the weapon was used not to avoid deadly force but to "gain compliance" from the naked and mentally ill man. In a Nov. 16 report, Lt. Jeffrey R. Schmidt wrote that based on "the officer's reports and my own observations of the incident, I have determined that" the action was within Shorewood Police Department policy."

The new Advanced Taser M-18 series has
almost 100% effectiveness rating.

See also Shorewood Police Department Incident No. 04-022899, regarding police using a Taser to bring a man into compliance who who was not taking his bipolar medication and had placed golf clubs in an oven, creating a fire hazard.

Articles elsewhere:

  • Police Association assistant secretary Graham Kent has called for the urgent issue of stun guns after officers yesterday shot dead a man who charged at them with a knife in Yarraville, although Fitzroy Legal Service solicitor Peter Noble was concerned that a general issue of stun guns would lead to their overuse and replace negotiation as a means of defusing hostile encounters. More from The Age
  • Cops Taser 14-Year-Old Who Wouldn't Drop Game Boy

    Detroit Free Press | November 21 2004

    Police in Lincoln Park had to use a Taser gun -- twice -- to subdue a kicking and screaming 14-year-old boy who wouldn't stop playing his Nintendo Game Boy during class. More from the Detroit Free press

  • Military Study Challenges the Safety of Taser Guns

    The use of Taser guns is becoming more common among police department across the country. Taser International manufactures the guns, which advocates claim are being routinely misused by police officers. A recent study performed by the military also shows that the guns may not be as safe as the company claims they are.  Alex Berenson, The New York Times  11/26/2004 More from The New York Times

    Rocky Mountain News, August 21, 2004

    Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman will meet with medical officials next week to discuss the findings of a monthlong Taser study and decide whether to restrict the weapon's use.

    Whitman stressed that the review of the department's Taser policy and the study conducted by Denver Health Medical Center cardiologists far predates Thursday night's death following the use of a Taser.

    Whitman said he has been researching Taser use and safety for months. Recent deaths connected to Tasers around the country led him to look for a local expert opinion.

    So the chief sent all of the data provided to the department by Taser International, the makers of the Taser, to the cardiology department of Denver Health for its review.

    "They've had it for a month or so," he said. "We have a meeting next week . . . and they will have an opinion for me."

    Taser International has its own wealth of information about the use of the weapon and its successes.

    "We've had well over 70,000 successful volunteer exposures," said Steve Tuttle, Taser spokesman. "But that doesn't mean it's a magic bullet."

    There have been only four deaths directly connected with Taser use in the United States and Canada, Tuttle said.
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 9, 2004

Much too shocking
Until more independent research is done about Tasers, it is best that police use them sparingly.

There's no question police officers need all the help they can get when confronting unruly suspects and prisoners. That's why thousands of officers across the nation now use Taser guns to administer a powerful jolt of electricity --- causing suspects to lose muscle control and collapse momentarily.

But a rash of recent deaths suggests the weapons are not as safe as proponents claim. Two men have died in Gwinnett and Fulton counties within the last two weeks after being shot with Tasers. Nationally, there have been 25 deaths involving Taser guns --- including five in Georgia --- during the last nine months.

Most deaths involving Tasers have been attributed to suspects' heart disease and/or drug use. But, while none of the deaths has been directly linked to the device, the statistics should be enough to persuade law enforcement leaders that more independent study is needed on the technology. More from the Atlanta Journal Constitution

  • Orlando Sentinel: June 2, 2004


By: Amy C. Rippel, Sentinel Staff Writer
A Lake Mary man who was shot with a Taser stun gun after acting "erratically" died in the hospital Tuesday afternoon, Orlando police said.

Anthony Carl Oliver, 42, had a fever of about 108 degrees at Florida Hospital Orlando after being shot with a Taser on Monday afternoon, police Lt. Curley Bowman said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, and specific details of the incident were not being released late Tuesday, he said.

Bowman said preliminary reports showed that Oliver "had cocaine and marijuana in his system but we don't have the full toxicology." Oliver's family could not be reached for comment.

About 3 p.m. Monday, Oliver flagged Orlando police down near the intersection of Colonial Drive and Tampa Avenue, Bowman said. A Taser was used on Oliver because he was acting erratically, Bowman said, declining to be more specific. After that, Oliver started having unspecified medical problems. He was taken to the hospital where he died a day later, Bowman said.

Oliver was the 50th person nationwide to die after being shot with a Taser stun gun by law officers, said Steve Tuttle, spokesman for Taser International, which supplied 743 Tasers to the Orlando Police Department.

An FDLE official would not comment on the case Tuesday night.

Since 2002, three suspects have died in the custody of Orange County deputy sheriffs after they were shot with Tasers. Another man died in Volusia County under similar circumstances. Autopsies later found drugs and pre-existing medical conditions were to blame, not the Tasers.

The gun shoots two barbed probes that shock the recipient with 50,000 volts. Most people are incapacitated.

Orlando police started using Tasers in early 2003.

Since then, officials said officers would have been justified using deadly force with a gun in six of 647 Taser incidents.

Tuttle said in-custody deaths after Taser shots are typically related to a "combination of drugs and psychosis." He added that "excited delirium," a condition that causes bizarre and agitated behavior, contributes to some deaths.

"The common thread in the in-custody deaths is extremely violent or extremely erratic behavior," he said.

Also from the Orlando Sentinel:

  • Police blame alcohol or drugs in death of Taser-stunned man
    December 17, 2004
    BY Andrew Ryan & Robert Nolin / Staff Writers
    HOLLYWOOD -- Police say a zap of 50,000 volts from a Taser stun gun didn't slow Kevin Downing on Wednesday night, much less kill him. They think drugs or alcohol made the 6-foot-3, 280-pound man delirious, sparking a commotion police were trying to piece...
  • The State In Brief
    December 17, 2004
    Cops: Taser didn't work HOLLYWOOD -- A man who died shortly after a police officer zapped him with a Taser stun gun was not subdued by the shocks, police said Thursday. It could take two weeks to determine what killed Kevin M. Downing, 36, said Detective...
  • Man dies after officer shoots him with stun gun in Hollywood
    December 16, 2004
    By Jaime Hernandez & Raelin Storey /
    HOLLYWOOD -- A man who authorities say confronted paramedics on Wednesday night died after a police officer shot him with a Taser stun gun, a police official said. The 36-year-old man was identified on Thursday morning as Kevin M. Downing, of Lakeview...
  • Voyeurism suspect has long history
    December 15, 2004
    By Gary Taylor / Sentinel Staff Writer
    Justina Rudez was about to get into her tub when she looked up and saw the top of a ladder moving outside the window. Her first impulse was to grab a towel and cover up, but she realized this was her chance to catch a "peeping Tom" who had spied on her...
  • Denver Post: Feb. 27, 2004

Citing deaths, ACLU asks cops to curb Taser use

Kirk Mitchell , Denver Post Staff Writer

The Colorado chapter of the ACLU on Thursday sent a letter to  Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman, asking him to consider limiting  the use of Tasers to life-threatening situations in which police  would otherwise use guns.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that deaths linked to the  electric stun guns used by police have increased nationally.

'Take a close look at whether the claims made for the Taser's  safety are sufficiently trustworthy to justify the Denver Police  Department's use-of-force policy, which permits officers to use the  weapon on suspects who present no threat to life or limb,' said  the letter from ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein.

Steve Tuttle, spokesman for Taser International, said he was  stunned by the ACLU's stance. Injuries to suspects during potential  physical confrontations have dropped from 70 percent to 20 percent  in Denver since the city's officers started using Tasers, he said.  After using them on a trial basis in the past, the department  implemented the widespread use of Tasers last year.

'I would think the ACLU would be in our camp on this issue,'  Tuttle said.

  • LUCILLE A. MCKENZIE; CECIL MCKENZIE, JR., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. THE CITY OF MILPITAS; FRANK ACOSTA, individually and in his capacity of the City of Milpitas, Defendants-Appellants.


December 12, 1991, Argued and Submitted
February 7, 1992, Filed

NOTICE: [*1]


SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Reported as Table Case at 953 F.2d 1387

PRIOR HISTORY: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Robert P. Aguilar, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV 88-20718-RPA



PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Appellant city challenged a ruling of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, which awarded appellees damages in their action against appellant under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for damages resulting from appellants' use of unconstitutionally excessive force against them.

OVERVIEW: Appellant city began using taser guns as part of its arsenal and adopted a policy for the use of such guns which provided only that tasering was allowed when verbalization did not work in stopping an individual and tasering was "otherwise prudent." Pursuant to this policy, appellees were tasered near their home when they failed to heed police warnings to "stop." The evidence showed that appellees posed no substantial threat to police at the time they were tasered. Appellees brought an action against appellant under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for damages resulting from appellant's use of unconstitutionally excessive force against them. A trial court jury returned a verdict in favor of appellees and appellants challenged that ruling. On appeal, the court affirmed. The court found that appellees posed no threat and that the broad policy used by appellant created a situation where tasers were resorted to by officers immediately upon the failure of verbal warnings. This, combined with the excessive force demonstrated, supported the jury findings of § 1983 liability.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the trial court ruling, which awarded appellees damages in their action against appellant city for damages resulting from appellants' use of unconstitutionally excessive force against them. The court found that appellant's policy as to how laser guns could be used contributed to the excessive force and resulting harm suffered by appellees.