Vermont Senate panel considers police stun gun bill
MONTPELIER -- Some Vermont law enforcement officers told a Senate panel Tuesday that they favor legislation the House passed last month that would require new statewide standards on the use of stun guns by police.
But the mother of a man who died in 2012 after a state trooper shocked him with a stun gun told the Senate Government Operations Committee that the House bill does not go far enough in ensuring the devices are used properly.
Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen said police are already trained to use different degrees of force depending on the circumstances. And when they do use force, their response is thoroughly reviewed, he said.
"Trying to come up with a piece of legislation that says ‘you will do A, B, and C under A, B, and C set of circumstances’ is extremely difficult to do, and I would discourage you from doing it," McQueen said. "I would encourage you to continue with what is in the House version of the bill."
The House bill would require the Criminal Justice Training Council, which oversees the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford, to develop the new standards by December 2015 and report back to the Legislature.
The Senate committee did not offer any amendments to the bill, but Jeanette White, D-Windham and the committee chair, said the panel would resume the discussion at another hearing next week.
Rhonda Taylor, whose son, Macadam Mason, died after he was shocked by the trooper’s stun gun, told the committee that thorough guidelines on when police can use such devices might have saved her son’s life.
Among her suggestions were mental health training for police, regular police training in the use of stun guns and mandatory daily testing of the devices to ensure they are working properly.
"The Taser that killed (her son) with a shot to the chest would not have been fired at his chest and would have been tested before and after use," she told the committee.
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has investigated Mason’s death and ruled that the trooper used the stun gun properly. The trooper had responded to a call that Mason, 39, was suicidal and shocked him with the stun gun when the unarmed Mason moved toward the officer, authorities say. Mason later died of a heart attack.
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