Police Taser video, part 2: What makes it ‘misconduct’?

 

When a man had a Taser used on him in the back on the North Shore, and then shocked again on the ground, the officer behind the electronic gun got 20 days unpaid suspension.

But what about this — a woman holding some kind of sharp objects, two police officers on the scene — one taking aim with a Taser, because the video’s rolling.

You hear an officer say “Shoot her already.”

The Taser video stops, then starts again, just as she’s going down to gunshots and a blast from the electronic gun.

Neither police nor those who provided this video say they know what’s missing or why. At the time, police said this:

“It was a tense situation and the female was acting very irrationally,” then-Maj. Frank Fujii said. “She was in the middle of the street, they were trying to get her off the street. Unfortunately we got to the point where we needed to deploy some force in order to get her to surrender.”

The woman was charged criminally, she recovered from the gunshot. Police say no more can be said about the case – including if any officer discipline was warranted — because it came under civil action. We tracked down the law firm that took her case.

“You never can see what she was doing before somebody said ‘shoot her already,’ but the audio was clear,” attorney Michael Green said. “No one says ‘look out, she’s coming, be careful.’”

Green says that case, and the North Shore case, show something more still needs to be done with how and when police use force.

“The two that you have that I have seen, you kind of grab your head and go, oh my god, what was that?” Green said. “They need to take those two films and they have to use them in the academy, they need to do that in training, because these are really bad.”

HPD said: “Officers are required to undergo training and certification before being issued an electric gun. Annual recertification is required.”

Another attorney who has represented several Taser-shot recipients says Tasers are being taken more seriously by police than they used to be.

“Tasers were being used essentially interchangeably with the least amount of force, because the police figured hey, we’re not gonna shoot him, we’re not gonna beat him. Taser’s the best measure,” attorney Eric Seitz said. “And people were getting hurt.”

Including one of his clients, a Maui woman, whose case helped redefine Tasers as intermediate force, and set standards for their use.

“For example you wouldn’t want to use it on somebody with an underlying neurological condition or emotional condition,” Seitz said. “Because it could have permanent consequences, and there have been deaths.”

No known deaths here in Hawaii, but our investigation into misconduct related to Tasers reveals there are one or two cases that make it to the administrative review board level every year. KHON2 received a video of one of them – the North Shore case — in response to our open-records request for all; police say any not yet out of the internal-review system, or involved in a lawsuit, cannot be disclosed, but KHON2 will keep asking HPD for them as they become available.

As to these first looks at video from the scene…

“The other side is to be very careful where policemen are not worried about somehow your station or another station doing this kind of a story,” Green said, “and now they don’t react fast enough because they don’t want to end up on TV.”

But even police say they know they’re obliged to use the Tasers right, and having their actions recorded can actually help.

“It’s a good thing,” said Tenari Maafala of the police union SHOPO. “It’ll help the officer know you’re under the scope, it will be recorded, so it’s helping the officer’s mindset.”

 

READ STORY: Police release never-before-seen Taser video

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