Mississippi Taser Abuse Cases by Police or Jailors
Cases of Taser Abuse in the State of Mississippi
In 2011, it was reported that the police department in Waveland, Mississippi were facing multiple lawsuits from those alleging abusive Tasering by officers. At that time, more than eleven lawsuits were leveled at the police department, claiming both abuse and civil rights violations. In one of the cases, a woman who was four months pregnant alleged she was Tasered by an officer. The use of Tasers was limited during the time of the investigation.
In 2015, a woman reported that Flowood police officers shot her with a stun gun for no reason. The twenty-year old woman was recording the officer who stopped her, claiming she ran a red light. She asked the officer to step back away from her car window while she located her driver’s license and insurance, but the officer refused. The woman claimed she was afraid of the officer, and attempted to raise her window—a move he blocked. Next, the woman says she tried to exit her car, but was thrown to the ground by the officer, then a Taser was used on her.
In the case of Richard A. Bullock v. Sergeant Keith Smith and Desoto County, Richard Bullock claimed he suffered multiple Taser burns and other physical abuse at the hands of Sergeant Keith Smith, however Desoto County asserted there was no proof that Sergeant Keith Smith did not receive adequate training in the use of the Taser or that the Sheriff was indifferent to the need for better training or supervision. County and Sheriff both asserted they were not liable for the acts of Sergeant Keith Smith. The case was eventually settled for a confidential amount of money.
Taser Abuse Cases on the Rise
In the state of Mississippi and across the nation, Taser abuse cases are on the rise. While police officers are allowed to use reasonable force when arresting someone, there are limits as to how much force they can use. When more force than is necessary is used to make an arrest, the person arrested might have a lawsuit for resulting injuries. When officers and jailors use Tasers, the excessive-force issue arises fairly often. Courts take into consideration the fact that officers are required to make a split-second decision in an uncertain situation, therefore all the circumstances are carefully looked at.
In a recent case involving the death of a mentally ill man, a federal appeals court held that a Taser was only to be used when an officer or jailor was confronted with an immediate safety risk which could be cured through the use of a Taser. Although the man in this case was not a threat to his own safety, the safety of others, or the safety of the officers, they Tasered him five times. The severity of the crime of the person arrested or the person in jail, whether the person is a threat to officers and others, and whether the person physically resists or tries to escape, are all factors in whether the use of a Taser is excessive.
How Serious is the Alleged Crime?
It is likely that Taser use will be considered reasonable in cases of a violent crime, however this is only one factor. Even in cases where the alleged crime is very minor, a hostile or uncooperative suspect might be Tasered by police, jailors or guards. That being said, if the crime is so minor that the suspect was unlikely to have even received a citation, yet a Taser was used, it could be considered excessive force. If the officer, jailor or guard made no attempt to arrest or handcuff the suspect, yet Tasered him or her, it could be considered excessive force. If the suspect posed only the slightest threat to officers, yet was Tasered, it could be considered excessive force.
Was There an Immediate Threat to the Officers or Others in the Area?
In general, the threat an alleged suspect poses to officers or others is the most important factor in the determination of whether use of a Taser was appropriate. An immediate threat, not just the potential of a threat must be evident in order for a police, jailor or guard to justify the use of a Taser. Courts have found the use of a Taser reasonable in cases where a disorderly suspect attempted to evade arrest, a subject refused to show his or her hands when instructed, in cases where no back-up had yet arrived, and when the suspect was acting in an aggressive manner.
When May a Taser Not Be Used?
Generally, courts will not sanction the use of a Taser on those who offered no resistance to the arrest, particularly those who were handcuffed or otherwise subdued, those who were behaving in a perfectly compliant manner, or those who were unconscious. Factors a court will consider when making the determination as to whether the use of a Taser was excessive include the extent of the person’s injuries, whether the officers properly identified themselves, whether the suspect was warned a Taser would be used if he or she did not comply with instructions, whether the suspect was acting aggressively despite being told he or she might be Tasered.
How We Can Help
If you believe you have been a victim of excessive force by the police, jailors or guards, in the form of a Taser, it is important that you understand your rights. An experienced attorney from Stroud, Flechas & Dalton can advise you of your options under state and federal laws. Those who have suffered excessive force by police, guards or jailors in the Southaven Police Department, the Olive Branch Police Department, the Horn Lake Police Department, the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department or the Desoto County Jail, are likely confused and unsure of what to do.
It is important to remember that you are entitled to certain protections under the United States Constitution as well as under Mississippi laws. When your rights have clearly been violated, you do have legal recourse. We believe strongly that you should not have to suffer such violations in silence. Call Stroud, Flechas & Dalton today at (662) 536-5656, and get the relief and assistance you are entitled to.