Police in Palo Alto stop use of Tasers on cyclists

Patrol car chases also dangerous, say police reports

by John Stevenson   January 9, 2014  

Palo Alto police car

Police in Palo Alto, California will no longer use Tasers to try and stop cyclists, after a review of an incident in which the electrical stun gun was used on a rider who ran a stop sign.

The San Jose Mercury-News reports that the only use of a taser by Palo Alto police in 2012 was an attempt to stop a 16-year-old male who was spotted riding through a stop sign. Police later learned he was riding a stolen bike.

An independent police auditor’s report agreed with an a police department internal review that a Taser should not have been used to try and stop the boy.

“Had the attempted use been successful, the result may have been unduly serious injury,” said the independent auditors, Michael Gennaco and Stephen Connolly.

The suspect was pursued by a training officer and his trainee, who split up to try and stop him. The training officer gave chase on foot while the trainee used a patrol car.

The training officer fired his Taser at the boy as he rode at and past him, according to the report. The trainee drove alongside the rider, braked and blocked him, knocking him to the ground. There was evidence the boy collided with the patrol car, the report said.

The boy said the Taser had hit him on the left wrist but had no effect.

The internal review into the incident concluded that the officers were justified in using some level of force to stop the boy but not a Tasers.

“The review noted that since the Taser is designed to incapacitate the individual, a cyclist who loses muscle control as a result of a successful Taser deployment could foreseeably end up injured because of a fall,” Gennaco and Connolly said.

There has also been discussion within Palo Alto Police Department about the best way to stop fleeing cyclists. The internal review of this incident and the independent report pointed out that it’s dangerous to use a patrol car to pursue or stop a cyclist.

Gennaco and Connolly said they reviewed a case in a different agency in which a fleeing cyclist was killed by a patrol car.

“This is a tactical question that many agencies have struggles with, but have not clearly resolved,” they said.

31 user comments

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Quote:
... a cyclist who loses muscle control as a result of a successful Taser deployment could foreseeably end up dead...

Corrected for accuracy

posted by mad_scot_rider [537 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:47

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So, it was deemed suitable to try and incapacitate him with a tazer or a vehicle just because he rode through a stop sign?!
Jesus, they didn't even know the bike was stolen at the time. Presumably you're not going to make too much of an effort to stop your face being the first thing to hit the floor once you've been tazered...

posted by Ducci [54 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:57

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WTF? Those people are out of control.. and stark raving mad...

posted by Hector Ch [52 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:58

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If you don't want to get tased, don't run from the cops. Pretty simple really.

If you run from the cops, I don't care if they shoot your stupid ass. Don't start none, won't be none. Start some, don't go crying cause you got too much back in return.

posted by badbadleroybrown [17 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:02

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What an idiotic idea tazing anyone non threatening typical overreaction and seeming supported by someone similarly ridiculous, where a bit of common sense would have better served.

posted by McDuff73 [46 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:10

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I have no problem with repeatedly tasering someone in the groin if they attempt to steal my bike.

posted by belgravedave [164 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:31

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A few roadside Tasers at strategic points would spice up the Amgen Tour of California!

posted by chokofingrz [253 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:32

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Give a cop a...

posted by northstar [1083 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:43

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Bike thieves aren't Cyclists. Taking them out by any means necessary is just fine by me.

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [142 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:45

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I'd personally be very happy to see bike thieves tasered whilst attempting to get away. I actually rather like the mental immage.

That said, it seems that the reason for stopping this particular thief was simple traffic violation and the taser and/or vehicle use seem excessive.

posted by Matt eaton [298 posts]
9th January 2014 - 13:00

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McDuff73 wrote:
What an idiotic idea tazing anyone non threatening typical overreaction and seeming supported by someone similarly ridiculous, where a bit of common sense would have better served.

It would be after a warning and failure to stop. If you are basically running from the cops but on a bike then they have a couple of options.

1 Run you over in the car
2 Shoot you
3 use non-lethal incapcitants like bean bag, pepper spray or tazer.
4 Let you go and let any one else go if they merely use a bike to escape the police for any kind of crime.

Minimum use of force /reasonable force rules out 1 and 2. So, to me it seems a choice between 3 and 4. I am in favour of 3 because I don't like the idea that criminals get a free pass if they just decide to use a bike to escape and the cops can't run after them or take a car where the bike goes.

You have to get real close for pepper spray and it doesn't work if sprayed on your escaping backside, so that won't work. Bean bag guns are cumbersome and unsuitable. Tazers are light and easy to use. Lean out the window and fire to get the cables attached 10 metres and then warn that the cables are attached. If they still don't stop then zap 'em.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
9th January 2014 - 13:33

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I've tasered someone, its quite good Smile

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2669 posts]
9th January 2014 - 14:00

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stumps wrote:
I've tasered someone, its quite good Smile

Husband of a friend who lives in NYC tasered himself, just to see what it was like.

He won't be doing it again Big Grin

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7916 posts]
9th January 2014 - 14:14

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Just to add we only taser someone who is a direct threat to ourselves or another person. In this case though i would not have used it.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2669 posts]
9th January 2014 - 14:15

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oozaveared wrote:

It would be after a warning and failure to stop. If you are basically running from the cops but on a bike then they have a couple of options.

1 Run you over in the car
2 Shoot you
3 use non-lethal incapcitants like bean bag, pepper spray or tazer.
4 Let you go and let any one else go if they merely use a bike to escape the police for any kind of crime.

What about the obvious?
5 Follow them on a motorcycle until they stop.

posted by drfabulous0 [272 posts]
9th January 2014 - 14:59

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I don't have a lot of sympathy for this thieving brat to be honest. If you are the type of scumbag prepared to run a stop sign and place pedestrians and other road users at risk of injury or worse, don't complain when the police return the favour.

You get what you give. If you don't give a toss about:

  • The rule of law
  • The safety of your fellow human beings
  • Their right to enjoy the property that they have worked hard to acquire without the fear that some lazy, wicked no-mark with no morals will walk off with it

.... why on earth should society give a toss about you?

Never in a hurry on a bicycle.

posted by GoingRoundInCycles [134 posts]
9th January 2014 - 16:26

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I guess in a country where reaching for a gun is considered a normal response, a reaction as completely disproportionate as tazering someone would probably seem quite normal.

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posted by mr-andrew [294 posts]
9th January 2014 - 16:27

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I feel like this article is terribly confusing. It is made to sound like he was tazed for running the stop sign but it actually seems like they tazed him after he started fleeing. At first I was shocked but then as I read I lost most of my sympathy. If you don't run they won't tazer you; pretty simple.

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
9th January 2014 - 16:52

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"If you run from the cops, I don't care if they shoot your stupid ass. Don't start none, won't be none. Start some, don't go crying cause you got too much back in return."

and that kind of attitude is how a police state is formed.

The glass is 50% capacity.

posted by mrfree [33 posts]
9th January 2014 - 18:54

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drfabulous0 wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

It would be after a warning and failure to stop. If you are basically running from the cops but on a bike then they have a couple of options.

1 Run you over in the car
2 Shoot you
3 use non-lethal incapcitants like bean bag, pepper spray or tazer.
4 Let you go and let any one else go if they merely use a bike to escape the police for any kind of crime.

What about the obvious?
5 Follow them on a motorcycle until they stop.

Or better still, follow them on a bicycle until they stop.

The glass is 50% capacity.

posted by mrfree [33 posts]
9th January 2014 - 18:56

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mrfree wrote:
"If you run from the cops, I don't care if they shoot your stupid ass. Don't start none, won't be none. Start some, don't go crying cause you got too much back in return."

and that kind of attitude is how a police state is formed.

And we all know how "trigger happy" "police" here can be...

posted by northstar [1083 posts]
9th January 2014 - 19:00

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Ducci wrote:
So, it was deemed suitable to try and incapacitate him with a tazer or a vehicle just because he rode through a stop sign?!

Not or. AND. I'm sure he was being a dick but determinedly stopping a red light running 16 year old using physical force is pretty insane.

posted by racingcondor [109 posts]
9th January 2014 - 20:48

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mrfree wrote:
"If you run from the cops, I don't care if they shoot your stupid ass. Don't start none, won't be none. Start some, don't go crying cause you got too much back in return."

and that kind of attitude is how a police state is formed.

Please can you explain how obeying the rule of law and being a decent human being is the kind of attitude that forms a police state.

He got everything he deserves IMO.

MikeOnABike's picture

posted by MikeOnABike [23 posts]
9th January 2014 - 20:57

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From the article, it seems that they were unaware of his thieving status at the time of the tasering/blocking.

Therefore, he was at that moment 'just' a cyclist. A child, in fact.

posted by Dr Max [10 posts]
9th January 2014 - 22:09

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Running a stop sign on a bike shouldn't result in potential deadly force.

If they had a car, why not just force him to stop? Make it the riders decision, stop or ride into a car.

It's like Frank Drebin, luckily he turned out to be a bike thief....... ( when he ran over 2 guys and killed them, luckily they turned out to drug dealers.....)

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [461 posts]
9th January 2014 - 22:10

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That's the point that seems to have been missed here. The kid in question is a minor. A child was run down by a cop in a car for running a red light. Was that to teach him about road safety?

Firing a taser that's designed to drop a charging adult at a child on a bike is psychotic enough but actually running one down in one of those massive yank tanks that the cops drive over there would surely count as attempted murder if the driver wasn't wearing a badge. "Oh but he's a professional, he's trained to do that." No he's not, he's a trainee - the article says so. Sheesh. Reads like a story from Infowars.

posted by Sanderville [200 posts]
10th January 2014 - 2:24

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I agree with Sanderville apart from the training bit - I don't imagine even the fully trained police are trained in how to ram children with police cars.

And I'm surprised at all the "got what he deserved" idiocy I read here above. Idiocy because you've all read that even the police recognise deliberately ramming children with police cars is not right. You're quite a weirdly reactionary bunch, some of you. "More running down kids on bikes please!"

posted by vbvb [220 posts]
10th January 2014 - 3:41

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Unfortunately in some parts of the USA things are so bad that kids as young as 10 commit murders and violent crimes to get "gang badges".

I'm NOT saying this kid was of the same ilk after all he had only pinched a bike but the way the country is its no surprise this type of incident does happen which is a real shame.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2669 posts]
10th January 2014 - 10:11

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It would be after a warning and failure to stop. If you are basically running from the cops but on a bike then they have a couple of options.
1 Run you over in the car
2 Shoot you
3 use non-lethal incapcitants like bean bag, pepper spray or tazer.
4 Let you go and let any one else go if they merely use a bike to escape the police for any kind of crime.
Minimum use of force /reasonable force rules out 1 and 2. So, to me it seems a choice between 3 and 4. I am in favour of 3 because I don't like the idea that criminals get a free pass if they just decide to use a bike to escape and the cops can't run after them or take a car where the bike goes.
You have to get real close for pepper spray and it doesn't work if sprayed on your escaping backside, so that won't work. Bean bag guns are cumbersome and unsuitable. Tazers are light and easy to use. Lean out the window and fire to get the cables attached 10 metres and then warn that the cables are attached. If they still don't stop then zap 'em.

So what do you do when someone's in a car? Apparently there are only those four options available, and 4 isn't an option. For a car, option 3 isn't going to work. So logically the only options are crashing into the car or shooting the driver. Which one do the police use?

posted by Bikebikebike [70 posts]
10th January 2014 - 13:19

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badbadleroybrown wrote:
If you don't want to get tased, don't run from the cops. Pretty simple really.

If you run from the cops, I don't care if they shoot your stupid ass. Don't start none, won't be none. Start some, don't go crying cause you got too much back in return.


[[[[[[ Okey-dokey, but would I be right in thinking you're from the USA?
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [268 posts]
12th January 2014 - 4:18

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