Setting the Standard: When Police Can Use a Taser

By Steph Machado

Published 05/02 2014 07:08PM

Updated 05/02 2014 07:47PM

MONTPELIER - There has been a lot of talk about the use of Tasers by police, after a Thetford man was killed by one in 2012, and more recently a Burlington man suffering from mental illness was shot by police when perhaps a Taser could have been used.

Currently, there is no law regulating Tasers, also known as electronic control devices. The Vermont Senate backed a bill Friday that would determine when Tasers should be used.

The bill sets the standard of deployment at "Aggresive Resistance." The House's version of the bill had a lower standard of "Active Resistance". The standard for deployment for a gun is "Assaultive Resistance."

"What we heard was that actively resisting could just mean going like this," said State Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), demonstrating by crossing her arms on her chest and backing away. "We thought that was too low of a standard. The other thing we heard was that the police train to higher standard that that."

Sen. White chairs the Government Operations committee, which heard extensive testimony from police, the ACLU, disability rights groups, and others.

The bill will require the Law Enforcement Advisory Board to create a statewide Taser policy that police will have to comply with.

The committee did consider including a requirement that body cameras be worn so the video could be reviewed when a Taser is deployed, but that did not make it into the bill.

They also decided not to regulate the calibration of the Taser, which determines how much electricity it is emitting.

The bill will go to a final vote Monday.

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