BALTIMRE (WJZ)—Activists want Baltimore City Police to stop using Tasers after the death of a teenager inside a hospital. They’re demanding a full review of police procedures as the commissioner announced a plan to give a Taser to every uniformed officer.
Investigative reporter Mike Hellgren has the new developments.
The ACLU has written a letter to the police commissioner expressing concern over the use of Tasers. Its report finds Baltimore City has the highest number of discharges in the state–with 257 uses in 2012. But the number of discharges per officer in 2012 was lower than other departments, including Ocean City, Aberdeen and Cumberland.
The use of Tasers has come under fire in Baltimore after the death of 19-year-old George Von King. Police used a Taser on him inside Good Samaritan Hospital after staff contends he became combative.
His family says he was getting treatment from an allergic reaction to medication.
The commissioner now wants to expand their use to every officer, raising alarm among activists.
“We have a crisis on our hands with the police commissioner preparing to unleash Tasers on the street to every single police officer,” said C.D. Witherspoon, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
They want a moratorium on the devices–until police conduct public hearings and a review of Taser policies.
“We need to understand the issues that lead to this incident. Was it a matter of training or was it a matter of the individual not following proper protocol?” said Del. Aisha Braveboy, (D) District 25, Prince George’s County, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.
On the Marc Steiner Show last week, the commissioner announced he ordered police to stop responding to hospitals in the wake of King’s death without first getting approval from supervisors–but he still supports Taser use.
“They’ve reduced force use against residents. They’ve reduced injuries to residents. They’ve reduced injuries to police officers,” Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said.
Dr. Douglas Zipes with Indiana University School of Medicine has extensively studied the impact of Tasers on the body and says they need to be used with caution in hospital settings.
“Avoid repeated trigger pulls. This individual, you tell me, was shot five times. That conceivably could increase the risk for having cardiac arrest,” Zipes said.
The King family’s lawyer tells WJZ he believes police should never have been called to the hospital.
“You have to have a level of trust with these officers to know that they’re going to do what they’re trained to do,” said Granville Templeton III, family attorney.
The King family has not received a preliminary autopsy report. Police have promised a full investigation.
King was not in police custody at the time of his death, so no officers have been suspended.
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