LESC Interviewed for Article: Practical Strategies for Maintaining Safe Schools by Karen Bagwell

Use of Force

Discuss Taser® use on campus with local law enforcement

Law enforcement officers who work in schools may carry a department-issued Taser®, which can deliver a 50,000-volt shock to immobilize a person up to 21 feet away. Use of these weapons can be controversial. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida submitted a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that a law enforcement officer’s excessive Taser® use was unconstitutional.Administrators who talk with local law enforcement about whether a Taser® might be used on campus can help prepare their school for such incidents.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about when and why an officer might use such a weapon, said Fred. T. Leland, director of Law Enforcement Security Consulting, North Attleboro, Mass. Leland is the use of force instructor for the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee and a Walpole Police Department lieutenant. He trains municipal and school-based law enforcement officers.

“If school officials are concerned about Tasers®, they should talk with the upper echelon of the local law enforcement department and let them explain,” Leland said. “The issue at school is that parents don’t want kids harassed, and the mission of campus security is to keep the peace, the same as the mission in the community, but in schools the politics differ,” he said. Leland dismissed the idea of using these weapons on young children, but said “some students are as large as an adult — large enough to present a threat.” These weapons are an alternative to lethal force, he said.

Officers are using them at K-12 schools, according to new reports:

  • An 18-year-old Texas high school student was tased this year after he allegedly elbowed a police officer in the face and lunged at an assistant principal,
    KVUE-TV reported.
  • A 16-year-old Kentucky student was tased this year after he tried to punch a police officer, reported The Associated Press.
  • A South Carolina student was tased recently after he allegedly hit a police officer in the head several times, according to The Post and Courier. To help stem a similar controversy at your school, Leland explained how officers use these weapons so you can discuss the matter intelligently with local law enforcement.

Officers are trained to not use a Taser® when a person is:

  • Compliant.
  • Passively resistant, such as merely walking away from school or a police officer.
  • Armed with a weapon that could endanger the officer. Before officers use a Taser® they should first try to gain voluntary compliance or:
  • Use a verbal command.• Pick up a person and move him.
  • Use other means of de-escalating a situation if time allows, such as calling for help. An officer may use a Taser® when a student who is large enough to pose a threat:
  • Actively resists, threatens or assaults the officer.
  • Becomes violent toward others.
  • Hurts himself and there’s no other practical way to stop him, such as a student who is cutting himself.

When you discuss Taser® use on campus with local law enforcement, talk about:• Your concerns so you can come to a consensus on their use.

  • Law enforcement notifying school authority if they need to come on campus.
  • Officers keeping school officials apprised of what they’re doing on campus.
  • Establishing a policy of taking any student who is tased to a hospital before he’s criminally charged.
  • Handling the media together if a student is tased at school.
  • Relaying information about special education students who could be harmed by the use of these weapons, such as a student with a weak heart.
  • Educating staff about officer’s use of these weapons. Ask teachers if they’d expect an officer to use a Taser® when an adult-sized student:

— Attacks a teacher. (This could warrant use.)

— Walks off-campus angrily after being reprimanded for disrupting class. (This would not warrant use.)

— Is sleeping in class and needs to be awakened. (This would not warrant use.)

E-mail Leland at fred@lesc.net  or visit www.LESC.Net

Source: Maintaining Safe Schools Copyright 2009 by LRP Publications, P.O. Box 24668, West Palm Beach, FL 33416-4668. All rights reserved. For more information on this or other products published by LRP Publications, please call 1-800-341-7874 or visit our website at: www.shoplrp.com/ed