Friday, August 15, 2014
(San Bernardino County) Grand Jury focused on Taser use
Report [2012-13 Grand Jury] called for enhanced training, greater communication
August 14, 2014
Victorville Daily Press
By Shea Johnson, Staff Writer
A little more than a year before Dante Parker died while in San Bernardino County Sheriff’s custody after having been stunned with a Taser multiple times, a county grand jury committee urged the Sheriff’s Department to implement enhanced Taser training while calling for greater communication among on-scene deputies.
In its June 2013 report — an examination spurred by three reported Taser-related deaths in the county since 2008 — the committee keyed in on a particular desire to eliminate repeated, continuous or prolonged use of the Taser stun gun.
The committee found, in detention scenarios where the target wasn’t showing signs of compliance or exhibiting neuromuscular incapacitation, “officers have incorrectly assumed the Taser unit was not working properly, thereby leading to potentially unnecessary discharges.”
According to the report, the department-issued Taser Model X2 — confirmed by sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller on Thursday to be the type used on Parker on Tuesday night — “does not provide any active indicators such as a warning light or sound indicating the unit is active and passing an electrical charge into the target.”
Instead, deputies are taught the “Silence is Golden” rule, which indicates that no sound means the Taser is discharging electrical current into the target; a sound means current is arcing in the air.
The committee recommended expanding training regarding the rule to address instances when the target does not comply or exhibit neuromuscular incapacitation, also known as NMI. It also recommended requiring greater communication on scene, increasing hands-on training with Tasers, focusing on identifying when a Taser discharge is effective and knowing whether the Taser is operating properly.
In an Aug. 1, 2013 written response to the report, Sheriff John McMahon said comprehensive training was predominantly hands-on, and that deputies learn alternative force options upon recognizing the Taser isn’t working or effective.
“Training currently exists, and will be further emphasized, to address those rare instances of effective Taser connections unaccompanied by NMI or compliance,” he said.
McMahon also said “verbal announcements should generally be given prior to the application of the Taser” to reasonably warn the target to comply and alert other deputies that a Taser is being deployed.
He vowed the department would further “assess options to safely and practically incorporate communication among deputies” and reinforce situational awareness.
Parker, 36, a veteran Daily Press pressman, was purportedly involved in an attempted burglary in the 13000 block of Bucknell Court and fled on a bicycle, authorities said.
While struggling with a female sheriff’s deputy, Parker was uncooperative, combative and “possibly under the influence of an unknown substance,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement Wednesday.
He was stunned multiple times and continued to struggle for several minutes, even after another deputy arrived on scene, according to the statement.
Parker was ultimately handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car. When deputies observed his labored breathing and profuse sweating, he was transported by medical aid to Victor Valley Global Medical Center — conscious but incoherent — and later died, authorities said.
A “Use of Force” report into the death of Parker should provide details into just how many times and where on his body Parker was Tased. Miller said Thursday it wasn’t known when the sheriff’s internal investigation would wrap up.
Shea Johnson may be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.