Police Monitor questions NOPD use of tasers

Police Monitor questions NOPD use of tasers

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In a twelve-page report, the Office of Independent Police Monitor detailed seven cases of taser use it feels raise questions about NOPD use of force.

In each case, the report showed an NOPD officer used a taser in a way that may have broken policy but in each case, those officers were deemed justified by the use of force review board.

In one case an officer tased a suspect after they claimed they had a heart problem and in another, the police monitor says an officer tased a suspect who was handcuffed and in a holding cell.

Ursula Price, the deputy police monitor, said it's just one instance where she worries deeming that case justified could set a bad precedent.

"I'm not saying that officer should've been punished, but he should have been corrected. I don't think NOPD wants people in holding cells to be tasered, so let's just be clear with the officers that that's not the way we conduct business," Price said.

Price said NOPD officers are allowed to break policy if they believe there is an immediate danger and that is likely why each case was deemed justified.

"The command staff took a broad definition of immediate danger to include things like, 'well I thought he might get away and hurt someone,' or 'I heard a sound and thought he might have a weapon,' but all of these people were already in NOPD custody under some type of control, even the ones that were running away were running with handcuffs on," Price said.

Price argues many police believe tasers aren't lethal, but she says there is growing evidence that tasers have killed people, especially vulnerable people like those with heart conditions.

She worries the review board responsible for clearing officers who use force on suspects may not have a broad perspective on cases like the ones reviewed in the report.

"It's worthy to note that the use of force review board is all law enforcement, that everyone who gets to decide whether or not that decision was justified are either NOPD officers or former police officers who are on the consent decree monitoring team. Perhaps that process needs to include civilians like people in our office so they can have a broader perspective," Price said.

The NOPD responded to the report saying:

"The NOPD has worked extensively with the Department of Justice Civil Rights division, the FBI and our federal consent decree monitors to ensure our electronic control device polices are in line with the highest standards of constitutional policing. The OIPM has always had a seat at the table and meets regularly with Chief Harrison.

"Without benefit of seeing the full report, we believe incidents cited here do not represent our efforts in full. There is always room for improvement, and we continue to work to refine our policies and training."

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