DES MOINES, Iowa (AP):
Iowa's law enforcement academy doesn't provide training on when or how officers should use stun guns, but a series of lawsuits has convinced some lawmakers that the Legislature should look at the issue.
More than 265 Iowa law enforcement agencies use stun guns and training is typically provided by the manufacturer. But there is no guidance from state or federal officials for when it's ethical or appropriate to use the weapons, the Des Moines Register reported Monday.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety is nearing a decision on whether it should equip state patrol officers with the devices.
Each police or sheriff's department using the weapons sets its own polices for the use of stun guns.
Eight lawsuits have been filed by individuals against law enforcement agencies and in six cases counties or cities have settled before trial even though they denied any wrongdoing on the part of their officers.
Rep Clel Baudler, a Republican retired state trooper from Greenfield, is among those calling for a legislative review of how and when the weapons are used.
"I don't like Tasers at all," said Baudler. "I've seen Tasers being used at times when there's absolutely no need for them. I can't tell you how much I detest them."
Baudler said that although he'd like lawmakers to examine the issue, he opposes setting strict criteria about when the weapons should be used. He said it's a disservice for lawmakers to mandate how things should work on the streets.
Others agree discussion is needed.
"It seems pretty clear that this is something our enforcement academies should be addressing," said Sen Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We put law enforcement officers in tough situations. There can be a lot of second-guessing on this stuff, but at the same time, we rely on them to exercise their judgment well and avoid the human tragedies that happen when law enforcement officers make mistakes."
Senator Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, said lawmakers should discuss training or standardisation.
While Taser International trains officers on the use of the devices it sells, trainers do not address when it is appropriate to use force, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for the company.
"We leave that completely up to the individual agencies," Tuttle said.
Tama County Deputy Wes Sebetka owns Paladin Tactical Solutions and provides training for Taser International. He describes general scenarios in many of his classes to help officers consider when to use the devices, he said.