Connecticut could be first in nation to require reporting of stun gun use

Hartford - Connecticut police departments are set to become the first in the nation required by law to keep track and report every instance of stun-gun use.

The bill now before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy followed the April 13 death of Jose Maldonado, 22, of Manchester. He was shocked by East Hartford police after, police say, he became combative during booking on an assault charge.

It was the 14th stun gun-related death involving police in the state since 2005, the 10th involving a minority, according the ACLU of Connecticut.

"We needed to act," said state Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, D-New Haven, who sponsored the legislation. "There needs to be a mechanism in place where we can really monitor the use of these Tasers."

The bill, pushed through in the final hours of the General Assembly session, also would require departments to adopt training and procedures developed by the state's Police Officer Standards and Training Council for using stun guns.

The measure was approved as an amendment, replacing language in a bill that originally had been designed to regulate license plate scanners. It passed 102-38 in the House and 35-1 in the Senate.

Candelaria said Malloy is expected to sign the bill. Malloy's office said the governor was reviewing the legislation.

State Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, opposed the bill. He said the law would make officers more reluctant to use stun guns, which could lead to them being injured or killed.

"Although the event in East Hartford was tragic, it was a clear outlier, and should not have led to this risky policy decision," he said.

Connecticut ACLU attorney David McGuire said the group hopes the law becomes a national model. New Jersey's attorney general collects stun-gun data from police in that state, but this would be the first law to require it, he said.

"It will really give a lot of insight into how Tasers are being used and who they are being used on," he said.

Cromwell Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, legislative chairman of the state police chief's association, said every department that uses stun guns trains its officers in their proper use. But Salvatore, who helped write the stun-gun procedures for the state training council, said police chiefs do not oppose the new law.

"We developed these policies after bringing several groups together to address these concerns," he said.

Among other things, the policies prohibit the use of stun guns "in a punitive or coercive manner," on handcuffed criminals or when someone can be "reasonably dealt with in any other less intrusive fashion." It also outlines when stun guns can be used to induce compliance through pain, rather than to disable a suspect.

Scot X. Esdaile, the president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said his organization has been pushing for a ban on stun-gun use since 2011, when a handcuffed African-American man died after being shocked by Waterbury police.

"These have been used as instruments of torture, not as they sold it to us originally, as an alternative to deadly force," he said. "This is an important step."

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