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December 29, 2009
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Calif. TASER ruling sets standards for police, claims

By Bob Egelko
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Police need reasons to believe a suspect is dangerous before firing a TASER and can't use their stun gun simply because the person is disobeying orders or acting erratically, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Monday.

The decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sets judicial standards for police and for people who claim they were victims of excessive force after police hit them with a TASER dart.

Expert Perspective

Remember that regardless of what these judges or anyone else says, non-compliance and erratic behavior CAN be a threat to you. Comments like, “…SIMPLY because the person is disobeying orders or acting erratically” and “It’s a significant use of force, not like cuffing someone or using pain compliance or pepper spray” reflect a dangerous level of ignorance of the realties of police work and necessary use of force.

Here are a few don’ts to keep in mind after reading this news story:

1. Don’t let this court decision cause you to disregard erratic behavior as being harmless.

2. Don’t forget that a subject can close the distance between the officer and the 21-year-old discussed in this story very quickly, particularly if he’s agitated.

3. Don’t forget that a subject’s failure to comply with your orders is serious. Don’t assume they just don’t hear you or that they’re just stubborn but not dangerous. Your commands have purpose—most importantly your safety and the safety of others. Prompt, and complete compliance is crucial.

4. Don’t forget your training and what you know to be true…regardless of what others might say in courtrooms and on the news.

Stay smart, stay focused and stay safe.

Read more: A list of don'ts for police after Calif. court's ruling

Full story: Calif. TASER ruling sets standards for police, claims

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