St. Louis Corrections Officer Has History of Taser Abuse

by Daniel A. Rosen |

A captain with the St. Louis County Justice Center is under investigation for potentially inappropriate use of a Taser in several recent cases. In May, a Taser was employed to subdue a woman in crisis with a history of mental illness. In June, the same captain used a Taser to gain compliance from two restrained inmates within ten days.

The unnamed captain was demoted to lieutenant pending an internal affairs review of his uses of force. He is also being scrutinized over his changes to an incident report from the May disturbance, weeks after it was filed. Both the use of force and the way reports were filed appear to be non-compliant with jail policies.

In the first incident, on May 27, a female inmate refused directives to get off a bunk and allow handcuffs to be placed on her. The captain said he then “drive-stunned” the woman directly in the thigh, without employing the Taser’s probes. He then removed her to the infirmary.

The captain, as well as another officer, filed a report the next day – despite jail policies calling for same-day reporting – and both amended their report three days later. The captain’s report stated that the woman “actively resisted,” a necessary condition under jail policies for the use of force such as Tasers. The other officer’s report made no mention of active resistance.

In the two June incidents, both detainees were restrained when stunned with Tasers by the same captain. On June 1, a man confined to a restraint chair became unruly and spit in an officer’s face. After the application of a spit mask and the refusal of further directives, the captain used a Taser on the man’s thigh to get him to stay seated.

In the second incident on June 10, a 23-year-old woman in a restraint chair was trying to remove her spit mask and refusing to comply with orders from staff. The captain stunned her five times in total on the left and right thighs to regain her compliance.

The unnamed captain was demoted to lieutenant on July 13 pending a review of the June incidents. A day later, he edited his account of the May 27 incident.

Raul Banasco, Director of the Justice Center, said he expects the May incident to be included in the use of force review. “There should be a discussion of all the reports because they’re all connected,” he said. Banasco also noted that incident reports may only be amended to correct names or other basic information, and a reason is required for any change.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has asked prosecutors to review all three incidents for potential criminal charges. He also asked an internal affairs unit from another county’s corrections department to review the case for policy violations.

Though Page set up an advisory board a year ago to oversee the jail, the board has been criticized by its members for lacking authority and access to provide meaningful oversight. “The advisory committee is not being allowed to hold people accountable,” said Rev. Phillip Duvall, the board’s chairman.

Source: Originally written for Prison Legal News.

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