Police Monitor: NOPD Taser use patterns may indicate a risk to officer and civilian safety

NOPD says policy complies with consent decree

Dave Cohen, WWL First News early edition
December 05, 2017 - 11:33 am
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The New Orleans Independent Police Monitor says the New Orleans Police Department may be putting officers and the public at risk with the use of conducted electrical weapons (CEW), often referred to as Tasers. 

"It appears that NOPD officers do not consistently provide warning and time to comply with commands before CEW use, have used CEWs on handcuffed subjects, on fleeing suspected persons, and on people who say they have medical problems," Police Monitor Susan Hutson said in a news release.  "Several NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau and UFRB findings in 2016 are based on incomplete or logically flawed investigations."

In the report, investigators highlight several incidents.  Here are a few as described by the Independent Police Monitor:

-A NOPD officer used a CEW on a fleeing suspect at close range.  One of the CDEW’s prongs penetrated his skull and lodged a centimeter into his brain, where it then delivered tens of thousands of volts of electricity. He immediately began to seizure.  NOPD concluded there was “no reason to believe the CEW caused his seizures.”

-A handcuffed suspect said “I have a heart problem” prior to a NOPD officer using a CEW on him.  The Consent Decree and NOPD’s Operations Manual places tight restrictions on the use of CEWs on handcuffed subjects and those with medical issues. 

-An NOPD officer used a CEW on a suspect who then said, “I can’t breathe.”  The officer’s response was “I don’t care.”

Hutson says while the NOPD's internal investigators have found most use of Tasers has been within the law, she's not so sure.

"PIB and the UFRB have concluded that the majority of the critical incidents involving CEWs in 2016 are legally justified and justified under NOPD’s Ops Manual and the Consent Decree.  The OIPM’s review of these investigations revealed a number of flaws that calls these conclusions into question," said Hutson. 

Click here to read the full report...

Beau Tidwell, Communications Director for the New Orleans Police Department, said in response:

"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. In this instance, the OIPM chose not to share their findings with us prior to release. 
 
"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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