November 18, 2007, Jarrel Gray died as a result of being struck by a Taser, administered by a Frederick County Deputy. He was only 20 years old. After he was struck once, he allegedly fell to the ground. Only 23 Seconds after being struck the first time, he was struck again! It is my understanding that the reason he was struck in the first place was because he did not immediately respond to commands given by the Deputy to get on the ground.
Assuming that it was acceptable to use a Taser, in the first place, on a young man that had been engaged in an altercation, as many young males will occasionally find themselves; why was it necessary to administer a second shock after he was on the ground? This is simply not acceptable. Some may justify the Deputy's actions, because he had not dropped to the ground when commanded to do so by the Deputy. It may be an easy justification for some, when it does not involve a member of their own family.
How many families can claim that they have never had a young family member involved in a fight? I venture to guess not many. I'm not suggesting that it is alright for young men to resolve their differences using violence. But, if they find themselves engaged in a physical altercation, it certainly does not give us good reason to put their lives at risk by using a Taser gun to subdue them.
What method did police use, prior to Taser technology, to subdue young people in the same kinds of situations? Would that Deputy have used a Taser if it had been his brother, son, cousin, or even a neighbor? I think not.
Two weeks prior to Jarrel Gray's death, a Frederick County Sheriff's Deputy used a Taser on Dereck Holland, a student at Tuscarora High School. According to the Frederick News Post, Sheriff Jenkins claims that, "Studies have proven the weapon, considered non-lethal, is safe and effective." Really? Why did Jarrel Gray die if it is non-lethal and safe? Jenkins asserts, "The 130 deputies who currently carry Tasers will continue to do so," and he claims that he has no plans to discontinue their use. That concerns me.
November 22, 2007, The Frederick News Post published an article entitled "Expert: Taser use is safe." The article featured expert testimony on Taser technology by Alan Goldberg, a Montgomery County Police Department commander. The following two paragraphs, taken from that article, leave me with great fear and concern for some of our residents.
Goldberg said Montgomery officers have used the devices about 130 times in the past couple of years. He expects that number will go up — the department recently ordered 260 Tasers to bring its supply to about 600, for 1,200 sworn officers.
"We don't have a blanket rule, but the Taser is the only nonlethal weapon we have to get people under control very quickly," he said. "It's based on the threat posed, whether the person is elderly or extremely young and whether the officer is alone or has backup."
Will the Sheriff's department continue to use Tasers in our schools and on our young people when they exhibit defiant behavior? If so, I fear that we could wind up attending a lot more funerals. We need to speak up and let our voices be heard before it's too late. If even one more life is lost, due to the use of Tasers, it is too late.
I believe that there is a place for the use of Tasers, by our police. But, I would reserve that for hardened criminals that cannot be subdued any other way, who pose a threat to our lives and/or the lives of the officers involved.
When it comes to our young people like those that have made the news headlines, let's arrest them, and put them in jail, if they become unmanageable and defiant, but let's not take the chance of killing them by using Tasers. There has to be another way!