Richardson: Taser incident in school a brain-lock at best - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: Taser incident in school a brain-lock at best

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 2:06 pm | Updated: 3:20 pm, Mon Mar 10, 2014.

I can only imagine how the parents of the little girl “accidentally” shot with a Taser by a Tempe police officer felt after being notified of her injuries. The incident occurred while the girl was in her classroom at a Tempe public school.

So much for school safety.

On March 7, the East Valley Tribune reported, “Authorities say a Tempe school resource officer accidentally fired her department-issued Taser during a demonstration, striking a student in the arm with one probe. Tempe police say the female officer was doing a show-and-tell Friday afternoon for an eighth-grade class at Gilliland Middle School. They say she pushed a button that tests whether the Taser is working. Police say the officer then mistakenly pulled the trigger and one of the two probes hit a 14-year-old girl in the left arm.” The officer, who has spent eight of her eleven years on the police department as a school resource officer, wasn’t named.

After being told of the shooting as a parent, I’d first want to know if my daughter is okay? Taser horror stories are commonplace. People have died after having been shot with a Taser. Once I was assured that my child was physically okay, the calm and concerned feelings would shift to what that officer was doing?

Tasers are used as a tool by police officers where deadly force would often be the next step in an officer’s escalation in the use of force.

According to the Taser manual of operations, “TASER devices are not toys, and users should avoid any inappropriate brandishing, deployments and/or activations, which may result in serious bodily harm to the user or others, including animals. Although the unit is designed to be as nonviolent as possible in stopping a combatant, its use can result in injuries, including but not limited to a probe embedded in an eye or secondary injuries related to falling. Do not attempt to use a TASER device unless you have read and understood this manual.”

The officer obviously violated the basic rules for the use of a Taser from the moment she pulled it from the holster for something other than lawful, defensive purposes.

After improperly un-holstering the Taser for “show-and-tell,” the officer turned on the weapon, put her finger on the trigger and fired it. What was she thinking? Or was she thinking?

Thank goodness she wasn’t showing off her police-issue Glock pistol!

According to the Tempe police spokesperson in an azcentral story on March, the Tempe officer accidentally fired the Taser in school, probe strikes student, Tempe officers receive hours of training and no matter how much training an officer receives they’re going to make mistakes and that’s what happened in this case. “The Police Department treats a stun gun as a firearm that requires extreme caution and safety, but the agency has no policy against showing a stun gun to a student or community member.”

There may not be a policy, but what about some common sense and not playing with a loaded Taser in a room full school kids?

There’s no excuse for mistakes that can kill or injure.

Mistakes and errors in judgment made by police officers that endanger the public, or contribute to poor policing practices, can often be traced back to inadequate training, poor supervision, errant leadership, or any combination of the three.

The Tempe police department has many excellent officers who bravely serve and protect us, but in past months, the department has been in the headlines more often than other agencies due to a steady series of incidents involving officers committing improper acts ranging from serious professional misconduct to the commission of on and off duty felony crimes.

The good news is the little girl wasn’t seriously physically injured.

The bad news is it still happened and an innocent child was hurt.

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