Baltimore police commissioner: Stun gun use down after policy changes

WASHINGTON — The Baltimore police commissioner says his department has made big changes to how officers use Tasers, and that means the stun guns are being deployed less often.

One of the biggest changes: Officers have been from using a Taser when a person is simply “noncompliant” — either passively or actively failing to follow a command, for example.

“To tell police officers that they could previously use the Taser for people who were merely noncompliant was too vague and too general,” Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told WTOP.  “And it resulted in too many Taser uses.”

The Baltimore Sun, which analyzed Taser use by law enforcement agencies across Maryland in 2015, reported this week the use of Tasers went up by 10 percent in Baltimore last year.

According to the Sun’s analysis of the use of Tasers by 47 law enforcement agencies, Baltimore police deployed the devices 347 times in 2015 — accounting for nearly four out of every 10 stun gun incidents in the state. The Sun reported the use of Tasers dropped in the other Maryland police departments in 2015 compared with the previous year.

Davis said the new rules on Tasers, which went into effect in the summer, have resulted in far lower rates of the use of Tasers, although he didn’t supply figures to back that up. Davis told WTOP the numbers haven’t been fully calculated yet, but that from what he’s seen, “they’re down dramatically.”

Davis said the State of Maryland requires a total of 40 hours of police training for officers each year. In 2017, Davis said, he’ll require 80 hours. “And a good chunk of those hours will focus exclusively on de-escalation techniques” designed to reduce incidents when police have to use any force, he said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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