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Civil Rights Groups Protest Guilderland Police Department’s Use Of Tasers On Minors

The New York Civil Liberties Union Capital Region Chapter (Albany) and The Center for Law and Justice today called for the Guilderland Police Department to immediately suspend the use of tasers and stun guns pending a thorough review of department policies and practices.

The organizations sent a letter that follows a complaint to the NYCLU that Guilderland police last month trained a stun gun on two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, at Crossgates Mall after the pair was already in handcuffs. The March 11 attack left one of the teens with significant burns and wounds from being hit multiple times. Both teens had previously agreed to leave the mall peacefully, as requested. Their behavior was neither threatening nor offensive.

Melanie Trimble, Director of the Capitol Region Chapter of the NYCLU (NYCLU-CRC) said, “This incident illustrates the use of tasers by area police departments should be suspended immediately until there can be a through review of all relevant policies, practices and training procedures. We are concerned that police officers are using these weapons in lieu of verbal negotiations. These were young boys who were emotionally distraught and the officers ought to have been calming them down rather than unleashing these weapons and causing pain and anguish for the teenagers.”

Trimble, Executive Director, NYCLU-CRC, joined Alice Green, Executive Director, of the Center for Law and Justice along with Joanne Bishop and her son, Stephen, to express serious concerns about the taser attack on Stephen and the need for a change in the Guilderland Police Department’s policy. They also called on the Department to “re-educate its officers” on the use of tasers.

Over 100 deaths have been attributed directly to use of stun guns and tasers in the US since 1999. As a result, police departments across the country are reviewing their policies on the use of these weapons.

In light of these statistics and the March 11 incident, Green stated, “It is time for the Guilderland Police to completely rethink the department’s interest in these weapons and immediately suspend their use on teenagers at Crossgates Mall. At the very least, we encourage the department to revise its policies and officer training, moving the use of these weapons up on the continuum of force to lethal force or just a step below.”

The NYCLU-CRC and the Center for Law and Justice will continue to urge Guilderland Police to suspend the use stun guns and tasers until comprehensive and humane policies and officer training have been implemented.

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