MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Leaders with the Myrtle Beach Police Department are reviewing the department's policy on how and when officers are allowed to use stun guns. This comes after a ruling in January from a federal court of appeals.
The Federal 4th Circuit Court panel in Richmond, Virginia, considered a case out of North Carolina involved the alleged misuse of a taser. According to the case, a mentally ill man was clinging to a pole and refusing to comply with police. The officers were attempting to take him to the hospital. In the case, it states that the man was tased five times and later died.
The federal appeals court ruled that police officers should not use stun guns on people who try to evade custody, but pose no safety risk to officers or others. The ruling is affecting law enforcement procedures in five states, including South Carolina.
The spokesman for the Myrtle Beach Police Department, Lt. Joey Crosby, said that leaders are reviewing the current taser policy. Crosby said once the department's legal team approves any changes, then the officers will be informed at the next in-service training session in January and February.
"Our training unit is constantly reviewing court opinions and other situations that could affect how our regulations are," said Crosby. "And they're constantly reviewing those to make sure ours are up to date and current. So that our officers are working within the parameters give to them by the courts and the constitution."
Students in the Myrtle Beach Citizens Police Academy were taught that officers are trained to deploy a taser between seven and 15 feet from the suspect for the best results, and fficers will only aim for a suspect's back and leg. Crosby says the department teaches all officers that force should never be the first option.
"Our goal is voluntary compliance – getting that compliance given to us by the subject," said Crosby. "And then of course as that subject begins to resist, we will use the necessary force appropriately. To make sure that we put that person under arrest or under investigative detention."
If an officer pull the taser out and deploys it, that is considered use of force. According to Crosby, if the officer just pulls the taser out but does not fire, that is not considered a use of force or threatening, but both situations are documented.