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Monday, January 28, 2008

Independent Commission Needed To Study Tasers

Guy Djoken

Last week the local Gazette wrote an article titled "Deputy accountable for nearly 13 percent of department's Taser deployments in two years". In the article written by Keith Martin, he noted the Frederick County sheriff's deputy who tased Jarrel Gray last December who later died, used the device nine times in two years as part of his patrol duties. This compared to the 70 times it was used in the last two years by the entire department.

That information alone should be considered at least troubling and warrant further investigation from all of us. We all know how important it is for us to live in a society where the law enforcement are mindful of civil rights as they patrol the streets and thankful that many of our policemen and women take this to heart daily.

The odds for one officer justifiably using the new "gadget" 9 times out of 70 deserve a further look. I would like to believe that all of us will take the time to call Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and ask him and other elected leaders to convene an independent commission to look into the use of tasers by the sheriff office and make some recommendations.

The major flaw in their handling of this issue is that, despite the mounting number of deaths resulting from the use of these devices, many are still in denial concerning their deadly nature.

Early this month, Maryland Delegates Brach, Anderson, Stukes and Tarrant introduced House Bill 108 aiming at restricting the use Tasers. I see that as a positive move despite those who oppose. Until this device is accepted as a deadly weapon by the those using it, we will keep on losing lives unnecessary. All of us may play a role in making that happen sooner rather than later.

Please call your elected officials and tell them what you think. On a positive note, the Frederick City Police Department anti-gang efforts as it relates to GREAT training made it to the "PERF Clips," which is collection of national news about policing efforts across the country.

We applaud the work of Chief Dine and commend him for being a leader in the region when it comes to community policing. "Kids help cops gang up on gangs with Great training" (Frederick, Maryland)

Guy Djoken is President, NAACP Frederick County, Maryland Branch

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