The ACLU of North Carolina, The Arc of North Carolina and the NAACP of North Carolina addressed the issue of TASER use at a press conference this morning in Raleigh.
The press conference was held to publicly release a report regarding the need for safer TASER policies in North Carolina. Since 2006 there have been ten TASER proximate deaths in our state. The most recent death was of a Charlotte teenager in March of 2008.
The Arc of North Carolina joined the NC TASER Project to raise awareness of the issue of TASERs being deployed against people with disabilities.
The Arc of North Carolina joined this coalition because of our concern that North Carolina lacks statewide regulations that would restrict the use of a TASER on a person with a disability. Restrictions on using TASERs against people with disabilities do currently exist in twenty four counties. TASER use against a person with a disability is currently prohibited in three counties. North Carolina sheriffs are considerably below the national average with respect to TASER regulations governing use on the elderly and people with disabilities.
In Murray Utah a man with cognitive disabilities, who was waiting at a bus stop, was tased after he was misidentified by an eye witness as the person who had just robbed a local bank.
A deaf man in Wichita was tased after exiting his bathroom. He had been taking a shower when police entered his home. When interacting with the police, he made attempts to communicate that he was deaf and needed his hearing aid. Upon reaching for his hearing aid, law enforcement tased him.
In North Carolina a 14 year old students with special needs was tased four times by a school resource officer. The girl, who is in intensive therapeutic foster care had an arrangement with the school guidance counselor in which she was given permission to contact her adoptive mother if harassment from a fellow student became overwhelming. During an attempt to exercise this privilege, she was tased by a school resource officer. The student has since transferred to a different school.
All of these cases exhibit stark similarities. All highlight communication barriers between the person with the disability and law enforcement. All of these examples address a need for increased disability awareness training to assist law enforcement in their interactions with people with disabilities.
The Arc of North Carolina strongly supports the efforts of this coalition in encouraging sheriff associations to implement statewide policy that restricts the use of TASERs on people with disabilities.
Not There Yet: The Need for Safer TASER Policies in North Carolina
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