Panel Rejects TASER Ban; Cinn. Police Prefer Using Stun Gun to 'Magical Karate Move' on Kids
By Gregory Korte, Cincinnati Enquirer
Two North Avondale children - ages 6 and 7 - testified Tuesday before a committee of Cincinnati City Council that they''re scared that police will shoot them with a stun gun.
Then they watched as the committee voted down a proposal by their father, Councilman Christopher Smitherman, that would have banned police use of the weapons against children younger than 11.
In 2004, 52 of the 629 Taser incidents involved children younger than 18, according to Cincinnati police statistics released Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Richard Janke told the Law and Public Safety Committee there may be cases in which an officer''s only other option would be a firearm.
"If a police officer in Cincinnati comes across an 8-year-old with an edge weapon that he''s about to use against someone, I think we''d all rather have him use the Taser," Janke said.
Smitherman, a Charterite, has been a frequent critic of police use of Tasers since the department furnished each patrol officer with one in 2003 after the police-custody death of Nathaniel Jones.
But Smitherman said the use of stun guns against young children is particularly egregious.
He produced statements from two national experts on Taser safety who said they never imagined the weapons would be used on small children.
Smitherman''s wife, Pamela, and two of his children, Christopher II and Malcolm, testified in favor of the ban Tuesday.
"I wanted to tell you that I am very scared to get Tased," said 6-year-old Malcolm.
Keith Fangman, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, criticized the proposal: "Does he think we have some magical karate move to knock the knife out of a kid''s hand?"
Fangman said no Cincinnati police officer had used the weapon on a child younger than 12.
"So why is he creating such a controversy where none exists? It''s just another example of him being an overly dramatic drama queen," he said.
Fellow Charterite Jim Tarbell said he opposed Tasers when Republican Charlie Winburn proposed them in 2000.
But with a year of experience, Tarbell said he''s become sold that the devices are a safer alternative - even for children.
"It''s not the use in and of itself. We don''t want them to use any of these things if they don''t have to," Tarbell said. "The distinction is, compared to what?"
If officers had Tasers in 2000 and 2001, he said, the police custody deaths of Roger Owensby Jr. and Timothy D. Thomas - and the riots and racial unrest that followed - might never have happened.
The committee vote on Smitherman''s proposal was 3-2, with John Cranley, David Pepper and Tarbell voting against it, and Laketa Cole voting with Smitherman.