Police in Palo Alto stop use of Tasers on cyclists
Patrol car chases also dangerous, say police reports
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.