Death by Taser
September 25th, 2008

The police department has issued a statement faulting the conduct of officers whose actions in Brooklyn yesterday caused the fatal fall of an apparently disturbed man, Inman Morales. Morales, who had been standing naked on the ledge of a building waving a long fluorescent light bulb, fell to his death after police fired a Taser at him.

In the statement, the department criticizes the officers on the scene for not having an inflatable bag to cushion Morales’ fall or taking other steps to spare him injury. “The order to employ the Taser under these circumstances appears to have violated guideline … which specifically state that ‘when possible, the [Taser] should not be used … in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface,'” the statement said. The department has placed the lieutenant who directed the use of the Taser on modified assignment and put the officer who fired the stun gun on modified duty. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office is investigating.

The incident brings to the fore two nettlesome issues for the department: Its use of Tasers, which employ electric shocks to disable a suspect, and its handling of cases involving mentally disturbed people.

Earlier this year, the department announced it would purchase 520 Tasers following the recommendation of a Rand Corp. study of police shootings. At the time, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly expresessed reservations about Tasers, saying they could cause deaths. The department has been slow to use the guns, since police used them in the 1980s to torture drug suspects.

Morales is the latest in a list of mentally disturbed people who have died during encounters with the city police. It includes 18-year-old Khiel Coppin, downed in a hail of police bullets last November when police allegedly mistook the hairbrush he was wielding for a gun; David Kostovski, also killed in November by police as he held a broken wine bottle; Gidone Busch, killed while holding a hammer; and Eleanor Bumpurs, who was shot by police who had come to evict her from her Harlem Bronx apartment.

Following last year’s shootings, the police and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene convened a committee of agency representatives, mental health advocates and consumers to assess police policies and procedures in such cases. A joint city/state report, issued in June, contained recommendations to “improve services for the subset of individuals with serious mental illness who are at risk of poor treatment outcomes, violence, and involvement with the justice system.” And City Councilmember Peter Vallone introduced a bill calling for the creation of a database, to be overseen by the police department and the health department, that would keep tabs on the “emotionally disturbed. ” According to the legislation, the police in 2007 made more than 87,000 radio runs that involved an “emotionally disturbed” person.

By on September 25, 2008, 1:49 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Health | 4 Comments »

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4 Responses to “Death by Taser”

  1. Michael Perry Says:
    September 25th, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Eleanor Bumpurs was killed in the Bronx, not Harlem.

  2. gail Says:
    September 25th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    You’re right. Thanks for catching that. I’ve corrected the story.

  3. Agnes Johnson Says:
    September 29th, 2008 at 5:45 am

    It would be so simple to just tell the truth. Police did not follow their own guidelines.Without a video to expose it, it would be the communities’ word against the police report. Peter Vallone’s suggestion is nothing but another way of Big Brother having another list. Peter Vallon who wants term limits overturned, which I don’t recall voting on, is useless.
    The question is, if the police are going to have these toys will they follow their own rules, yet alone rules of human decency.

    A side bar, even when we see a pattern as clear as the nose on our face it is not called out. All the names recently killed for being ill are black and brown. And they don’t live in Scarsdale.

  4. Rob Says:
    October 18th, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Kelly’s official statement was, “these people go off their meds”
    Diabetics die when they are thought drunk, same with concussions.
    The NYC has had to put EMT’s in the system to talk to each person they arrest so they do not kill people for being sick.
    I got the chance to talk to one in that situation. I was advised by the EMT not to talk to the police, not to trust them, to in fact treat them like they were Mafia. He said he gives this advise to everyone as he has seen to many horrible things while working there.
    The police say they are there to uphold the law. The bill of rights are the highest law in the land. They are taught to break it. They are taught to try to get people to give up their rights, and to do so any way they can. They are unable to tell when they are lieing as they are taught to do it so convincingly, and the best way to do that is to believe your lie, this means they can not tell the difference when they go to court.

    We are teaching cops to be criminals and justifying it by saying they get some of the non official criminals so what they do is OK>

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