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Police unveil draft of Taser use guidelines.

Byline: Eric Florip The Register-Guard

The Eugene Police Commission received mixed reviews Wednesday night on the unveiling of its first draft of Taser use guidelines during

a public forum and discussion.

Community members voiced concerns over potential medical ramifications and possible officer abuse, while others said the weapons could prevent some situations from turning fatal.

"I think it gives people the full flavor of how complex the issue is," police commission coordinator Jeannine Parisi said. "It's not a black-and-white issue."

The forum at the Eugene Water & Electric Board allowed the approximately 50 attendees to speak with doctors, Eugene police officers and members of the police department's Use of Force/Taser Policy Committee in four separate roundtable discussions.

Many believed the proposed policy allowed too much room for interpretation. For example, one situation that warrants use of the stun guns involves "a person who is fleeing an officer who has arrested, or who is attempting to arrest, him/her if that level of force is reasonable necessary," according to the policy.

But several attendees said they believed that leaves too much up to the officer, allowing for interpretation that could lead to excessive use.

Committee Chairman John Brown acknowledged the the draft was still very much in discussion, and the main reason for holding the forum was to collect public input and refine the policy.

The question of whether Eugene police should use Tasers - as Springfield police and Lane County deputies already do - has gone in and out of the public spotlight for more than two years, Brown said.

The devices work by firing two charged darts at a target, administering a brief, disabling electric shock through attached wires.

After the department had previously stalled plans to implement the weapons, the issue was raised again in November after an incident involving 19-year-old Ryan Salisbury. A Eugene police officer fatally shot the mentally ill man when he threatened officers with a kitchen knife.

The shooting was later found to be justified. Many, however, including Salisbury's father, Jeff Salisbury, believe that a Taser may have subdued his son without the use of lethal force.

Salisbury, who attended the forum, said he is still in favor of Eugene police using Tasers as an alternative to firearms, but would like to see the policy reworked to include more specific guidelines.

"My concern is with the implementation of the devices," he said.

"It still comes down to an officer-by-officer decision."

Salisbury suggested adding specific situations that officers could review as a standard before deciding whether to use the device, but said that police were on the right track as they move toward a pilot program that will train and equip about 30 officers with Tasers.

"I like that there are some guidelines, but also some discretion for the officer to make the decision. I think you have to have both," he said.

Others were against the idea entirely, a few of whom said they had been shocked with Tasers themselves. Amanda Gates, a Eugene resident who said she was shocked multiple times by Lane County deputies after an incident in January, said more research needs to be done on the medical effects of Tasers before Eugene police carry them.

Gates said she periodically shook for about a week after the incident. Officers might also be prone to abuse the devices, she said.

"My concern is with the usage," she said. "If the Taser is going to be used like a gun, then it should be used only in a situation when a gun would be used."

The commission will hold meetings on July 5 and July 12 to ask for more input.
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Title Annotation:Government; Some at a public forum thought the proposed rules allowed officers too much discretion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 28, 2007
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