The state has paid at least $269,500 in settlements since 2004 in seven lawsuits alleging that police used Tasers inappropriately, the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has found.
A bill about police Taser use and training is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Government Operations Committee on Wednesday at 3 p.m. It has already passed the House.
Vermont ACLU Executive Director Allen Gilbert opposes the bill. It will lead not only to more settlements, he said, but perhaps more deaths like that of Macadam Mason, who died in 2012 after a state trooper shot him in the chest with a Taser.
Gilbert used news reports, court documents and state or municipal records to piece together information on the Taser-related lawsuits.
Cases range from a 2004 case involving a Brattleboro man in a hot tub, who was paid $37,500, to a 2005 wedding altercation in Arlington. The Arlington case was settled for $135,000, according to Gilbert's report.
"People need to realize that in these cases if the Legislature adopts the Taser bill as it passed out of the House, the use of Tasers in these cases would probably be justified," Gilbert said.
State law enforcement officials have said that would not be the case.
The ACLU believes a Taser should only be used when there is risk of serious injury or death to an officer, a subject or someone else on the scene.
Taser use by the Vermont State Police, one of the few agencies that keeps records on Tasers, has declined from 80 uses in 2011 to 36 in 2013.