What Could Justify Using a Taser on an 8-Year-Old Girl?

Justified.

That’s how the Pierre Police Department described an incident several days ago where an officer fired his Taser at an 8-year-old girl after receiving a report that she had stabbed herself in the leg and appeared suicidal.

When police they arrived on the scene, the girl was holding a paring knife to her chest.

So how did the police respond to this small child who appeared to be having an emotional crisis? One of the officers tased her in the chest and stomach.  Afterwards, the girl was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where the doctors found that she in fact had no stab wounds on her legs. “She was in pain the whole night,” the girl’s mother told reporters about her daughter’s response to being shot with a Taser.

The haunting question is why law enforcement officers used such aggressive force.  It’s difficult to think of a situation in which it would be appropriate to use a Taser on a child—but it seems quite clear that this is not one of them.

Tasers subject their victims to a 50,000-volt shock followed by 100 microsecond pulses of 1,200 volts. Since 2001, more than 500 people in the United States have died after law enforcement officers used this weapon against them. Tasers can be especially dangerous when used against young people.

In addition to the physical risks, kids are especially vulnerable to pain and fear—so you can imagine the kind of trauma an 8-year-old girl who possibly wanted to harm herself might have experienced during this incident.

Tasers are dangerous, and it’s important that cops take this seriously. Without clear training and limitations, officers may use Tasers not because it is appropriate and necessary in a specific situation, but because it is an easy weapon to use and within reach. Tasers should not be the go-to weapon of choice in any and every situation. The risk is simply too great that using a Taser to respond could result in additional trauma, physical injury or even death.  A study last year specifically found that sending shocks to the chest—which the police did to this 8-year-old girl—can cause cardiac arrest and sudden death.  Simply put, police never should have tased this 8-year-old girl in the chest. Yesterday’s ordeal could have ended much worse for the 8-year-old girl, her family, and the police.

When police decide how much force to use, they are subject to the 4th Amendment’s reasonableness standard, according to Graham v. Conner. In that case, the Supreme Court laid out the following test: to determine whether the force used was reasonable, courts must weigh the intrusion on the individual’s interests against the government’s interest. The government’s interest is measured by looking at the severity of the crime (in this instance, there was no crime), whether the person posed an immediate threat to the officers or others (here, a child suffering a mental health issue who may have posed a danger to herself), and whether the person was resisting arrest by fleeing (the girl was standing still and was facing police when she was tased). While we wait for an investigation into the incident, it is hard to understand how a reasonable officer would think that tasing an allegedly troubled child is the best way to protect that child from harming herself.

Aggressive police tactics are used every day, in every state – often to shocking and dangerous extremes, as was the case here. This disturbing incident should serve as a reminder that police departments need clear training on how to respond to mental health crises and clear limitations on use of potentially lethal force, especially against children.

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Anonymous

Really? Well this is what KCCR news says:

http://www.todayskccr.com/index.asp?folderID=22
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated at 8:30 p.m.

Officers forced to subdue juvenile with taser

Pierre's Police Chief says officers followed proper protocol when they tased an 8-year-old girl after she threatened to harm both herself and officers with a large knife.

A taser is an electroshock weapon used by law enforcement to stun suspects who are demonstrating aggressive, dangerous behavior. The shock lasts about five seconds and the tased person revives quickly.

Pierre Police Chief Bob Grandpre says the incident was reported at 8:55 p.m. Saturday at a Pierre address. He says the initial report from someone at the scene stated that the girl had threatened to commit suicide and was repeatedly stabbing herself in the leg.

Grandpre says when two Pierre Police officers and a Hughes County Deputy Sheriff arrived, they found the juvenile pointing the knife at her chest. The knife, according to Grandpre, was a large one with a 4 1/2-inch fixed blade.
At the start of the encounter, which Grandpre says took less than five minutes, officers talked to the girl, asking her to drop the knife. She refused. Grandpre says the juvenile also was moving toward a back room where she might have been able to lock out the officers.

When an officer stepped forward towards the girl, Grandpre says she pointed the knife at the officer. "He (the officer) understood the threat and stopped," Grandpre says.

The girl then pointed the knife again at her chest and refused to obey the officer's commands. Grandpre says given the lack of cooperation and fear that people could be harmed, the officers decided to subdue her.

Grandpre says the girl was tased once from five to six feet away. He says she dropped the knife, experienced an "instant recovery" from the electrical shock, and was able to communicate with law enforcement.

The girl was checked at the scene by American Medical Response ambulance, but was not transported to the hospital. She was found not to have stabbed herself.

Grandpre says after the incident, officers then continued "to deal with the original nature of the call which was a threatened suicide."

Grandpre says an internal investigation indicated that officers acted appropriately. Grandpre says the taser was used only as a last resort in an aggressive situation and was used to protect everyone from harm. He says the important thing was nobody was seriously hurt.

The department has used tasers for at least three years. Grandpre says in the past two years, tasers have been used eight times on offenders, including once on an older aggressive juvenile.

Grandpre says he has talked to the parents of the child, who was taken to the Avera St. Mary's Hospital safe room following Saturday night's incident.

Vicki B.

I keep telling people that the Taser Company, who they buy the Tasers from, keeps telling them that it's not lethal. But nobody believes me even though I'm a paramedic and know damn well what I'm talking about. I don't care if I'm not a doctor, my area of special interest is cardiology and I know what I'm talking about.

They even put the Taser directly on the person and send continuous electricity through them without thinking twice about what it could be doing to the person. This is b/c during the demonstration, the person from the Taser company TOLD them "electricity isn't dangerous b/c it doesn't stay in your body, doesn't build up after you take the taser away from the body."
It doesn't freakin' HAVE to build up. Your heart has an electrical system, which is how it makes the heartbeat work. Any electricity added to the natural electrical system of the heart WILL have an effect on just about ANYone. But ESPECIALLY people with neurological or heart problems.
And most people with mental illness, which are the ones who might need to be tased, have neurological disorders.

But you can't tell the police anything, especially if you work for the fire department, b/c they take an attitude with you for just about anything.
They don't have to like us if they don't want to, that's their business, but I wish they'd stop acting like they're paramedics when they wouldn't even pass the EMT-B test if they had to take one.
They have First Responder training, and that's nothing like EMT-B.
I don't try to play police officer. Why should they act like they're volunteer paramedics?

Anonymous

Really? Here's what our local news reported Tuesday night... http://www.todayskccr.com/index.asp?folderID=22

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Updated at 8:30 p.m.

Officers forced to subdue juvenile with taser

Pierre's Police Chief says officers followed proper protocol when they tased an 8-year-old girl after she threatened to harm both herself and officers with a large knife.
A taser is an electroshock weapon used by law enforcement to stun suspects who are demonstrating aggressive, dangerous behavior. The shock lasts about five seconds and the tased person revives quickly.
Pierre Police Chief Bob Grandpre says the incident was reported at 8:55 p.m. Saturday at a Pierre address. He says the initial report from someone at the scene stated that the girl had threatened to commit suicide and was repeatedly stabbing herself in the leg.
Grandpre says when two Pierre Police officers and a Hughes County Deputy Sheriff arrived, they found the juvenile pointing the knife at her chest. The knife, according to Grandpre, was a large one with a 4 1/2-inch fixed blade.
At the start of the encounter, which Grandpre says took less than five minutes, officers talked to the girl, asking her to drop the knife. She refused. Grandpre says the juvenile also was moving toward a back room where she might have been able to lock out the officers.
When an officer stepped forward towards the girl, Grandpre says she pointed the knife at the officer. "He (the officer) understood the threat and stopped," Grandpre says.
The girl then pointed the knife again at her chest and refused to obey the officer's commands. Grandpre says given the lack of cooperation and fear that people could be harmed, the officers decided to subdue her.
Grandpre says the girl was tased once from five to six feet away. He says she dropped the knife, experienced an "instant recovery" from the electrical shock, and was able to communicate with law enforcement.
The girl was checked at the scene by American Medical Response ambulance, but was not transported to the hospital. She was found not to have stabbed herself.
Grandpre says after the incident, officers then continued "to deal with the original nature of the call which was a threatened suicide."
Grandpre says an internal investigation indicated that officers acted appropriately. Grandpre says the taser was used only as a last resort in an aggressive situation and was used to protect everyone from harm. He says the important thing was nobody was seriously hurt.
The department has used tasers for at least three years. Grandpre says in the past two years, tasers have been used eight times on offenders, including once on an older aggressive juvenile.
Grandpre says he has talked to the parents of the child, who was taken to the Avera St. Mary's Hospital safe room following Saturday night's incident.

Anonymous

The only answer for this kind of abuse of police power is to Sue the Hell out of them....

Anonymous

Why is the police trying to help a child that is suicidal? A family member or a pastor or counselor could not come for assistance?

Anonymous

what can we expect from a Sate that thrives on Fracking- where water is polluted ? where profits come first over Life! and where a cop can not respect a 8 year old ? madness reigns supreme

William Washburn

They don't need any extra training. Anyone with even half a brain knows better than to tase an 8 year old child!! They did because the know that they can get away with it. What is needed is accountability....

Mick Porter

So a highly trained police man couldn't disarm and restrain an 8 year old girl? Time to get some real cops.

Anonymous

The girl was holding a knife. Knifes are dangerous weapons, no matter how small. The officer initially tried to approach the girl, but the girl turned the knife toward the officer- a direct threat to his well-being. When he stopped moving toward her, the girl moved the knife back toward herself. The officer tased her (at the gun's lowest setting and for the smallest amount of time possible) to force her to drop the knife to protect both himself and the child. That justifies a taser. Any attempt to restrain the girl by other means very probably would have resulted in harm to either the girl or the officer, as flailing about of any kind with a knife is dangerous.

Christopher Erickson

First of all if you work for the ACLU and are going to be making comments about police procedure you should have some ACTUAL DIRECT KNOWLEDGE about that procedure. Anyone who is allowed to carry any non-lethal device is subject to exposure to them. That means that if you're going to be deploying OC spray then you first have to be sprayed and if you carry a Taser then you yourself have to Ride the Lightning and experience the effects firsthand. It is inappropriate to try to scare people by saying police are not trained. Second what were the Police supposed to do, let the 8-year old stab herself or while they were trying to help her she turns the knife on them. That right there is the Reasonableness standard, which says what would a REASONABLE PERSON do in that situation weighing the TOTALITY of the CIRCUMSTANCES. Thirdly, what was the ultimate cause of death in those 500 deaths because it does not read that the Taser was the ultimate cause. There could be many reasons that the heart stops after the initial shock.. Using fear to cause change is not the right thing especially when trying to say you are protecting the rights of the people.

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