SILVER SPRING – State Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) said she is considering introducing a bill that would require all police agencies in Maryland to follow a common set of Taser guidelines and standards.
“It was clear that there was a need to put in place some of the recommended guidelines and standards,” said Gutierrez of federal standards on police Taser use.
Gutierrez attended a May 25 meeting featuring Montgomery County Police Officers Frank Stone and Greg Woodman.
The two officers discussed the Montgomery County Police Department’s use of force policy on Tasers and how they’re upgrading Taser equipment. The Montgomery County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland hosted the forum.
Stone said Montgomery County Police are now upgrading the model of Taser they carry from an X26 to an X2, which automatically shuts off after five seconds.
The discussion came in the wake of a March 19 Baltimore Sun story that reported Montgomery County police officers using Taser against suspect that did not pose an imminent threat and that four people in the County died from Tasers since 2009.
Montgomery County Police said they have been proactive in their use of force regulation when it comes to Taser.
According to Stone, Montgomery County police adopted their Taser use policy before the Baltimore Sun story was published
After the Baltimore Sun story broke, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett issued a review of Montgomery County police Taser use policy.
“We can always go back and self examine ourselves with our training and our procedures,” Leggett said.
Howard’s case also brings up questions on police’s ability to respond to suspects who are in immediate need for medical attention.
For the last 12 years, Mike Mage co-chair of the Montgomery County chapter of the ACLU of Maryland has campaigned for police to carry automated external defibrillators in their vehicles.
Mage has argued that is a legal obligation for police to carry AED and to treat suspects they arrest.
“We believe it’s their constitutional obligation for them to have AED’s to deal with people who go into cardiac arrest while in their custody,” Mage said.
Unlike Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, most Montgomery County Police officers are not trained with AEDs and do not carry them around in their vehicles.
The Montgomery County Police has 161 AEDs, though the department is adding 50 more AEDs, according to Woodman, who is in charge of managing the device for Montgomery County Police.
County Police reported four incidents in 2015 in which they had to use an AED.
In three of those instances the person died.
Leggett said he agrees police officers should carry AEDs but said the reason the County has not added more of them is because of funding, with the 50 AEDs the County ordered this year costing $90,000.
Mage said the County’s slow response to outfitting AED’s to its police force would open the County to future lawsuits.
“Courts have held that police or any government agency is required to provide medical care for the people in their custody and for a person who collapses,” Mage said.