Redmond Suit Prompts Questions Over Taser Policies

Redmond Suit Prompts Questions Over Taser Policies
SEATTLE - Fifty-thousand volts jolting through your body -- that's how a Taser stops someone in their tracks.

But a local woman claims cops used a Taser when she was in diabetic shock.

It raises the question: What are the rules for using Tasers? We found some surprising answers.

Last summer, Leila Fuchs was inside her car when a Redmond police officer Tasered her. Video from the police car shows the general scene, but you can't see Leila when she was hit by the 50,000 volts. But grown men shudder violently and fall to the ground when Tasered during training sessions.

The Redmond officer allegedly Tasered Fuchs because she wouldn't get out of her car following a minor traffic accident. Her attorney says she was nearly in a diabetic coma.

"He jumped the gun, literally," says defense attorney James Egan, "and that's when he tried to electrocute someone he apparently thought was intoxicated."

So what are the rules? There is no universal Taser training in Washington. Each agency develops its own policy.

The basics are straightforward as the Washington State Patrol academy trainers showed KOMO 4 News. Ideally, you shoot someone with the Taser probes from seven to 15 feet away and the jolt hits their muscles for a five second burst.

Where the training gets gray is over the policy question -- when should an officer use it? Trooper Mark Tegard wrote the patrol's policy for Taser use. He explains that their policy is to consider using a Taser about the same time an officer might consider using pepper spray to get a subject to comply with an officer's commands.

"If I figure that I am not going to be able to get control - we're gonna end up on the ground either intentionally or unintentionally to get control, might be better off to step back and use a Taser," he said.

Trooper Tegard goes on to say that the risk of injuring either the officer or the suspect goes up dramatically if they get involved in a scuffle.

Amnesty International has concerns about Taser overuse and misuse. The State Patrol considered that when developing its policy -- in general, there must be some risk of a physical confrontation for a trooper to use a Taser.

We asked Patrol Instructor Kevin Forrester if just saying "no" to an officer would be enough to get Tasered.

"Absolutely not," he said, explaining that what the subject is doing, saying, how they're behaving all go into the decision-making process when a trooper decides what to do.

But by itself, just saying "no" isn't enough. "Non-compliant behavior like that would not warrant a Taser deployment."

In Leila Fuchs case, Redmond's city attorney says the officer involved was disciplined. After an investigation, he was suspended for one week in November without pay. Fuchs attorney says she has scars from where the Taser burned her and she still suffers from the ordeal.