ACLU And Madison Councilman Want MPD Taser Use Suspended

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

The Madison Police Department is under pressure to stop using tasers until more research is done on their safety.

A Madison council member and the ACLU want to put a hold on tasers.

The Madison Police Chief Noble Wray has always maintained that tasers save lives and reduce injuries during arrests.

"I believe that the taser allows for a more humane way of dealing with those very difficult encounters," Wray stated on February 2nd.

But the ACLU is asking the police department to limit the use of tasers to only the most serious cases.

"We think it's important that MPD only use it as a substitute for deadly force until independent studies–and by independent studies I mean independent of the manufacturer–be completed," says Wisconsin ACLU Board Member A. Steven Porter.

The request comes after a Madison School Liason Officer shot 14-year Dalarence Goodwin in the back with a taser while trying to make an arrest last January.
Chief Wray says the officer used an appropriate level of force with Goodwin.
The Police Department uses a force continuum to determine what level of force is justified to stop an illegal act.

In Madison, a taser is considered to be more force than pepper spray, but less than a punch or a kick.

"You would be able to deploy the taser before you would be able to go up to a suspect and deliver a punch or a kick to them," said Lt. Vic Wahl on February 2nd.

The ACLU wants it moved up the force continuum.

"Until we know just how deadly it is it should only be used in situations where deadly force would otherwise be used," says Porter.

Madison Councilman Andy Heidt wants to go a step further. "We need to stop the use of this weapon in our community until we have more evidence as to its safety and better policies towards its appropriate usage."

Heidt says he fears the city could be sued if someone dies after being tased. He says the current safety information comes from the manufacturer and is therefore biased. Heidt says the city should wait for independent studies before they allow the taser to be used.

The Madison Police Department declined comment for this story. They will hold a press conference this Thursday to release information on their own internal study of the use of tasers.

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