A bill that’s been introduced in the Iowa Senate would standardize training for law enforcement officers on the proper use of stun guns or Tasers. A number of lawsuits have been filed over the alleged misuse of Tasers. Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, says two of those lawsuits were from his area.
“One was a woman in Muscatine who was, I think, mentally ill…They’d asked her to change clothes and she didn’t do it when they told her to, so they ‘Tased’ her,” Courtney says. “The other one was two guys in Burlington that I think they had them subdued, on their knees with their hands behind their back and a county sheriff’s deputy ‘Tasered’ one of them.”
Courtney says the tens of thousands of dollars in settlements paid out in those two cases could have paid for a lot of training in how law enforcement can properly use Tasers. Senator Steve Sodders of State Center also works as a deputy sheriff and he considers stun guns a valuable tool to subdue unruly inmates in the jail.
“Once you deploy pepper spray, it’s not like it just goes on the person you’re spraying,” Sodders says. “The officer gets it. Anybody in that room gets it. That’s much more messier than a dry stunner.”
Sodders hopes his department will approve Tasers for officers on the street as well as those in the jail. Sodders will soon participate in a training session where officers will learn first hand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a stun gun.
“And so I’m going to have to get zapped by it here pretty soon,” Sodders says. “I’m not looking too forward to that.”
But Sodders says the training will help him understand Tasers and how and when they should be used. Under current state law, such training for law enforcement is not required. The bill that would require Iowa law enforcement officers to undergo a standard level of training in the use of stun guns will be considered first by a three-member subcommittee in the state senate, but a date has not been set for their meeting.
The head of the Iowa Department of Public Safety says his department will soon buy Tasers for state troopers and others in the agency and officers who’re issued Tasers will undergo training.
A stun gun — commonly referred to be the brand name Taser — causes a person’s muscles to seize up, making movement difficult, if not impossible.