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Published: Thursday, 4/28/2005

Toledo NAACP wants Tasers shelved

BY CLYDE HUGHES AND CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

The Toledo branch of the NAACP yesterday called for the suspension of Taser use in prisons, jails, and schools and temporary suspended use by Toledo police until more research can be done on its effects.

Branch president WilliAnn Moore and legal redress chairman Morris Jenkins, a criminal justice assistant professor at the University of Toledo, said there is no reason to use a Taser in the secure confines of a jail.

Jeffrey Turner, 41, died Jan. 31 after he was shocked multiple times by Toledo police during an arrest and additional times by Lucas County jail personnel after he was brought to the facility.

Dr. James Patrick, the Lucas County coroner, ruled two weeks ago that the multiple Taser shocks contributed to Turner's death, and he ruled it a homicide.

"This is part of a larger issue that includes 'driving while black,' excessive force [against African-Americans], and other things," Mr. Jenkins said. "I have talked informally to [Sheriff James] Telb and [Toledo Police Chief Mike] Navarre, and from my vantage point, we seem to be on the same page."

A Blade analysis of reports from Aug. 20, 2003, to Feb. 5, 2005, showed Toledo police used their Tasers in 199 incidents involving African-Americans. That's 66.8 percent of the 298 times they used Tasers on people during that time.

Officers used Tasers against whites in 28.2 percent of the incidents (84 times) and Hispanics in 4.4 percent of the incidents (13 times). Tasers were used twice against Arab-Americans, to make up the 0.6 percent difference.

The city's population is 70.2 percent white, 23.5 percent black, and 5.5 Hispanic.

Since the Turner incident, Chief Navarre has added new restrictions for Taser use by his officers. Sheriff Telb halted the use of Tasers in the jail and required any suspect shocked by one to pass a medical exam before entering the jail.

The local NAACP branch is asking Toledo police to stop using the devices until research on their effects on African-Americans and other studies can be done.

Mrs. Moore said there is evidence that a person's blood pressure can go up when they are shocked by a Taser. She noted that African-Americans suffer disproportionately from high blood pressure.

Mr. Jenkins said he had been researching the topic for the NAACP before the Turner incident.

Some, including former NAACP president and attorney David Taylor III, criticized the organization for its silence on the Turner case.

Mr. Taylor requested an investigation into the death in a letter to the Toledo FBI office, saying Turner's civil rights were violated.

The agency responded by saying it would review the matter but would not be able to tell him whether such an investigation had been initiated.

Mrs. Moore said after Turner's death she called family members, who hadn't filed a complaint with the NAACP, and offered assistance.

"We can't step into an issue if the family doesn't want us to," Mrs. Moore said. "That's not how the NAACP works."

Mrs. Moore said Mr. Taylor is not a member of the Toledo branch of the NAACP and is not representing the branch.

Mr. Taylor said, though, the NAACP would have been right to respond to the issue when the death occurred.

"I don't know what they're researching," said Mr. Taylor, who said he has not talked with Mrs. Moore about the issue. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out a black man has been tased nine times and now he's dead from it. Something smells here, and it required an immediate response."

Joe Walter, city safety director, said the police department's new restrictions have significantly decreased the use of the weapon but the department is not planning on suspending its use.

He said the department would be willing to revamp its policy further depending on any new medical studies about the devices.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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