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Monday, August 18, 2008

Local Police Holding Taser Use Information Hostage

Tasered While Black publisher says: Grassroots organizing efforts are taking place across America to control taser use and abuse by local police departments. But appears that some police departments in America are not willing to be held accountable to the citizens they are sworn to serve.

As reported by
columbiatribune.com During a news conference this morning, Grass Roots Organizing reiterated its request that the city council form a task force to review Columbia police’s Taser policies and not distribute more Tasers until that task force completes its review.

Tasers emit a five-second burst of 50,000 volts that temporarily immobilizes their target. Police say they are an alternative to deadly force.

Critics question the safety of the devices and want the city to ensure they’re used only in situations of imminent danger.

To get more information on the department’s Taser use, GRO volunteer Ed Berg on Aug. 4 made an Open Meetings and Records Law request to the Columbia Police Department for all police reports and arrest records involving Taser use since 2002.

In an Aug. 5 letter of response that was delivered through certified mail to Berg Aug. 8, Capt. Zim Schwartze said it would cost $1,478 for the copy costs and estimated 60 hours of staff time required to fulfill his request. Schwartze included an itemized breakdown of the staff time and the hourly rate per staff member.

Berg’s request included a list of specific information he wanted from those police reports, such as how many individuals who were tased had weapons, racial profiles of suspects tased, the number of people tased when no charges were filed against them, the number of tased people under the influence of drugs, the number of people who were tased from heights of more than 3 feet and the number of people tased in water.

Berg also requested the number of disciplinary actions filed against officers for violating the department’s rules on Tasers as well as all video recordings of Taser use.

Berg said he believed the department’s cost estimate was "unreasonable," and he wanted to bring in his own staff to copy the arrest records. Berg said being required to pay the $1,478 charge before getting the documents is the department’s way of holding the information hostage.

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