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Published: Tuesday, 4/5/2005

School board leader urges ban on Tasers

The president of the Toledo Public board of education said yesterday that city police officers who patrol the district's schools should have to give up their electric stun guns.

President Larry Sykes recommended during the board's policy committee meeting that the district approve a measure restricting or eliminating police use of Tasers in schools.

"Do we really need to be Tasing kids?" Mr. Sykes asked.

The school board will debate the proposed policy at its next regular meeting on April 26. But the proposal does not have the full support of the board and might pose a problem for the district if it does pass.

Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre has previously said that he will not impose separate policies on the use of Taser stun guns by officers in the schools and those assigned to the street.

Deputy Chief Derrick Diggs yesterday reiterated the chief's position.

"The chief has been very clear that the officers in the schools will be equipped similarly to those in the street," Deputy Chief Diggs said. "The chief of police will determine how the offers in the schools will be equipped."

There were 103 deaths involving Tasers in the United States and Canada between June, 2001, and March, 2005, according to an Amnesty International report released last week. Among them was the Jan.

31 death of Jeffrey Turner, 41, of 2115 Collingwood Blvd.

Turner died after being shocked with a Taser five times by Toledo police when he refused to answer police questions or comply with instructions after police received a call about him loitering near the parking lot behind the closed Toledo Museum of Art.

He was later shocked four more times by Lucas County sheriff's office personnel at a county jail cell when he began slamming into the sides of the cell and personnel became concerned he would hurt himself.

Because of his death, Sheriff James Telb suspended use of Tasers by his office and adopted policies that require suspects shot by Tasers to undergo medical exams before being booked into the jail. Chief Navarre last month revised departmental guidelines for use of stun guns, including their use on juveniles.

Twelve Toledo police officers are assigned to Toledo Public Schools and two at Washington Local Schools. In 2003, Toledo Public Schools paid $322,706 for its 12 officers. Washington Local paid $53,784 for its two officers. The districts covered roughly half of the officers' salaries for nine months while the city picked up the rest.

Deborah Barnett, vice president of the Toledo school board, said she was unsure how she would vote on the proposed Taser policy in the schools.

"For me, there is just not enough information for allowing one of our students to be Tased," Ms. Barnett said.

Board member Peter Silverman said he thinks the school resource officers should carry the stun guns.

"My position is that we brought in police officers to help with security, and we should allow them to exercise their judgment unless we see horrible abuse of judgment - and I have not seen that," he said.

Board member David Welch agreed. "I think that is something left to the chief of police," he said. "I wouldn't want them to come in the schools without all of their equipment."

Board member Steven Thomas could not be reached for comment.

No Toledo Public Schools student has been Tased inside a school, but Mr. Sykes noted that the stun guns have been used twice outside a school building, after regular school hours.

- Ignazio Messina

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