Cincinnati police revising Taser policy

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Police Department is revising its current Taser policy.

Chief James Craig said he won't eliminate the use of Tasers by officers, but Cincinnati police will be coming out with a revised policy in about a month.

"Our City Solicitor's Office is also looking at it, and once that happens and once that's looked at and reviewed by city administration, we'll come out with a new policy," said Craig.

The review comes after an article published in the American Heart Association's premier journal, "Circulation," presented the first ever peer-reviewed scientific evidence that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death.

"I am concerned about it because like most Police Chiefs, I'm a big supporter of the tool. We know the tool has saved lives, we know it has minimized injuries to both police officers and suspects. Based on this report, we are looking at our existing policy, we will be making some revisions," said Craig.

Chief Craig says the revisions will be in line with what the study is suggesting.

"I think what they're suggesting the key point is elevated heart rate and the Taser coming in contact in close proximity to the heart when someone has an elevated heart rate," said Craig, "...and usually when we have contact with suspects, it's pretty clear that their heart rate is elevated, so we're taking a look at the more appropriate place to direct the prongs.

The Taser shoots two prongs which deliver electricity into the body with the intent to incapacitate a subject.

Chief Craig did not elaborate on whether the policy change would involve shots to the chest.

Taser International revised its target zone in October of 2009, warning officers to avoid the chest when possible.

In an I-Team report in November, 9 News revealed that Cincinnati Police records show of Taser shots in Cincinnati, officers hit the chest area 19 percent of the time in 2010.  In 2011 (through September), records show officers tasered subjects in the chest 20 percent of the time.

Every officer who carries a Taser is required to sign Taser International's liability release form, which lists under "Known and Potential Side Effects: Heart rate, rhythm capture."

Craig says there have been no deaths related to the use of Tasers since Cincinnati police started using them in 2004.

Taser International responded, saying

"While we are unaware of any policy changes, we do know that Cincinnati has had eight years of tremendous success in reducing injuries to officers and suspects with their TASER program. In its founding years officers substituted TASER use for other types of force, such as physical confrontations, impact weapons and pepper spray – all of which were noted by the City of Cincinnati Independent Monitor's Final Report in 2008. It's important to remember that one of the lead lawyers who sued the city over excessive force specifically credits TASER as responsible for dramatic reductions in injuries and escalations to deadly force. I would suspect that any changes would not be steps backward to the days of nightsticks and physical force before the TASER was introduced there."

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