Police Taser Policy Draws Questions at Syracuse Common Council Meeting after Shock of Disabled Man

Aug 19, 2013

Barrie Gewanter of the New York Civil Liberties Union addresses Common Council meeting on police taser-use policy, that drew disabled advocates.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

The incident of Syracuse police using a taser on a man on a Centro bus has raised questions about use of force policies.  Among the complaints are charges that top city officials are ignoring the issue.

Just how concerned are people about the use of a taser on Brad Hulett, with a brain injury and back problems… who has been described as nonviolent?

"I saw an individual with an intellectual disability given commands instead of explanations and I absolutely saw no risk of physical injury, and yet the taser was used." 

New York Civil Liberties Union Member Barrie Gewatner commented to common councilors about a now widely viewed video of the incident last May.  She says it’s hard to figure out how police are trained …or if there are guidelines when to set the taser’s shock on probe mode or the harsher Drive-Stun setting.  Citizen Review Board Head Joe Lipari told lawmakers the department policy has holes.

"No mention of de-escalation in the use of force policy or the taser policy.  Does not define the levels of resistance and the levels of controls, There's no discussion of verbal communications skills and there's no caution advisories for particular medical considerations. "

Councilors got few answers to their questions… Lance Denno accused Chief Fowler and Mayor Miner of boycotting today’s meeting.  Police Union Head Jeffrey Piedmont, while not talking for the department, defended officers and taser use.

"If the person is told time and time again, "I'm going to tase you; pu tyour hands behind your back' and they finally do, they're not gong to get tased."

Councilors want another meeting to pose taser and use-of-force questions to actual police officials.  They say they want to protect people’s health …and their taxes…the city and department face a lawsuit in the Hulett case.