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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.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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