In recent years, the use of tasers by police officers has increased. While tasers, or stun guns as they are also known, are generally considered a safe and non-lethal method of detaining an uncooperative or fleeing suspect, there have been a significant number of Florida taser-related injuries and deaths, especially over the last couple years. Many people think that giving police stun guns as an alternative to deadly force was a good practice because it encouraged police to exhaust every possible remedy prior to discharging their firearms. However, as more time passes, it seems that many officers have come to rely on their tasers as a way to bring a suspect into submission even when they are not really being threatened. Because they are considered safe, stun guns are being used more and more often, but the more they are used, the more we see that they are not always safe.
Our Palm Beach personal injury lawyer was distressed to read about one such situation this week. According to Channel 10 News out of Tampa Bay, Trooper Daniel Cole of the Florida Highway Patrol was cleared of wrongdoing in an incident that took place in September of last year. He was under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for the use of his taser on a young woman named Danielle Maudsley.
Cole first arrested Maudsley for fleeing the scene of a traffic accident, which is a misdemeanor charge in Florida. While she was handcuffed, she attempted to run from him, and when she ran, Cole pulled out his stun gun and fired it at Maudsley. She immediately fell to the ground, and because she was handcuffed, she was unable to break her fall. Her head hit the ground with great force, causing a severe brain injury that has left the 19-year-old Maudsley in a vegetative state ever since.
During the investigation, Cole asserted that he used his taser because Maudsley was fleeing the scene, and he believed that if he did not tase her, she would escape. However, a camera on the front of the police cruiser captured the entire incident, and from the footage there it certainly appears that Cole either could have caught her or could have at least attempted to pursue prior to using his stun gun. Because she was handcuffed and unable to put her hands out to lessen her injuries, many people feel that Cole should have refrained from or, at the very least, waited to utilize his taser until he was sure that it was necessary. Again, this is a classic case of an officer using a stun gun in a situation where he is not in danger but instead wishes to subdue the suspect.
Of course, everything happened very quickly, and it is always easier to discuss what the officer could have done when things are slowed down, and we have the benefit of cooler heads and calmer circumstances to assess. However, as our Palm Beach County injury attorney knows, part of a police officer’s job is to be able to think and react quickly, but properly, under pressure. Legal cases in these situations would involve analysis of all of these factors to determine whether reasonable conduct was or was not displayed.
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