Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chicago Police Taser 82-Year-Old Woman

The Guardian reports:

Chicago's Police Department is investigating an officer's use of a Taser last month on an 82-year-old woman who police say was swinging a hammer when they arrived.

Lillian Fletcher was rushed to the hospital after being jolted by the Taser last week but has been released, police said Tuesday.

Officials with the city's Department on Aging went to her home Oct. 29 to make a welfare check and called police when they saw Fletcher in a window swinging a hammer, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said Tuesday.

Officers arrived and in an attempt to subdue Fletcher, one of them used a Taser, Bond said. The department is trying to determine whether the officer violated department policy on the use of stun guns.

Fletcher said Tuesday that officers pushed their way into her home. ``They shocked me,'' she said.

Fletcher at times sounded confused during the telephone interview. Her granddaughter Traci Taylor told the Chicago Sun-Times that her grandmother has schizophrenia and dementia.

``My grandmother is easily confused,'' Taylor told the newspaper, adding that the woman can be belligerent but is about 5 feet 1 and weighs no more than 160 pounds.

``I just don't think they should be Tasing 82-year-old women. That's ridiculous,'' Taylor said.

Tasers use compressed nitrogen to fire two barbed darts that can penetrate clothing to deliver a 50,000-volt shock to immobilize people.

Touted by law enforcement officials as less lethal than other ways of subduing combative people in high-risk situations, the weapons have come under criticism nationwide after they were blamed for several deaths.

In 2005, the police superintendent at the time suspended the distribution of stun guns after the deaths of two people who had been hit by police with Tasers.

Today, about 150 field training officers are set to be issued new Tasers, and about 200 sergeants have had the weapons for about five years, Bond said.

The human rights group Amnesty International USA has voiced concerns that police departments are starting to use Tasers more routinely rather than in cases of serious danger.

Taser use by police drew national attention recently when police stunned and arrested a University of Florida student after his fervent, videotaped outburst at an event with Sen. John Kerry in September.

In Ohio, a patrolman accused of repeatedly jolting a woman who had been arrested with a Taser gun faces a disciplinary hearing Friday, The Tribune Chronicle of Warren reported. The woman had been arrested because she was acting unruly at a bar, police said.