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Grand jury refuses to take position on TASER policy
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After a limited investigation on the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department TASER policy and procedures, the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury released a report on Wednesday stating that it is inappropriate for them to take a position on the TASER policy due to pending lawsuits.

“…it is the opinion of the 2009-2010 Civil Grand Jury that it would be inappropriate to take a position on the TASER policy or make any recommendations at this time. The Civil Grand Jury is publicizing the above policy solely in an effort to increase the public’s awareness,” reads the conclusion in the Civil Grand Jury findings.

There are currently two pending lawsuits related to “in custody deaths where a TASER was deployed but was not the cause of death,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. There are currently no pending lawsuits related to TASERs being the cause of death. There have been no deaths in Stanislaus County that have been found to be caused by TASERs.

In the events where a TASER was deployed and there was a death, it was due to underlying medical conditions or associated with a pre-existing medical condition, Christianson said. Drugs and alcohol have also played a role in deaths after the deployment of a TASER but the TASER itself has never been ruled the cause of death within Stanislaus County.

“TASERs don’t cause death,” he said.

The grand jury report states that “deaths as a result of TASER usage are most often not caused simply by TASER deployment, but rather are caused by a combination of TASER deployment and underlying medical or other pre-existing conditions in the body of the subject.”

To better understand the TASER policy and procedures, the Civil Grand Jury reviewed the policy, interviewed the person in charge of the initial training and annual follow-up training, received a live demonstration of the use of TASERs, and reviewed the log containing a description of each incident in which a weapon of any type, including TASERs, was deployed, according to the grand jury report.

Before each sheriff’s deputy can carry a TASER, they must undergo training to earn certification and they must also have a TASER deployed against him or her “to teach the TASER users intimately about the effects of the TASER,” states the Civil Grand Jury report.

Christianson has had a TASER deployed against him three times, he said.

The TASER training is only taught by authorized persons who have been certified as a TASER instructor, according to the Civil Grand Jury report. Sheriff’s deputies must complete an initial certification-training course including written and practical tests. After they are certified they must also attend annual recertification trainings.

There are also policies on when an officer can’t use a TASER on a subject. Some instances when an officer are not allowed to use a TASER on a subject is when the subject is operating a motor vehicle, holding a firearm, is at an extreme age or physically disabled, according to the Civil Grand Jury report.

The Civil Grand Jury started an investigation after receiving a complaint requesting examination of the use of TASERs by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. They are not requiring the sheriff’s department to respond to their findings.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.