Cops still without Taser policy | AspenTimes.com
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Cops still without Taser policy

ASPEN Aspen still has legal issues – but no Taser policy – more than eight months after a police officer’s use of a stun gun on a homeless woman led to her firing. City Attorney John Worcester said Tuesday there would not be another session after the eleventh-hour hearing Jan. 24 in which Calvano attempted to clear her name. Instead, the city will respond with its side of the case in writing before the end of February.Judge Jim R. Carrigan, a former state Supreme Court justice presiding over the hearing, will then have 30 days to make a ruling in the case, according to Worcester. “I’m confident the city did nothing illegal or improper,” Worcester said. “The only issue in the hearing is whether or not she violated the city’s policy on the use of force.”The current policy doesn’t specifically address Tasers, he said. Though a Taser policy has been in the works since soon after the June incident when Calvano confronted Carol Alexy, whom Calvano suspected of stealing a sweater from The Thrift Store’s drop box. Calvano zapped Alexy, who was homeless, and later taken to Aspen Valley Hospital. Police Chief Loren Ryerson subsequently appointed assistant chief Richard Pryor to investigate, and City Manager Steve Barwick later fired Calvano for breaking the department’s use-of-force policy. Police departments across the U.S. and Canada buy Tasers based on claims they are less lethal than guns and bullets. However, the devices have come under criticism in recent years after reports of people suffering serious injuries or dying from Taser shocks. Taser advocates counter that those who have died were either ill, previously injured or had been using illegal drugs, and that the Tasers did not kill them.Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, told The Aspen Times in August that it’s a problem that Aspen police use Tasers but have no specific policy as a guide.”If the Aspen Police Department is going to authorize the use of Tasers, it needs to have a written policy that explains when they can be used and when they cannot be used,” he said.In December, Ryerson said the policy would likely be finished by the first week of January. On Tuesday, he called it a “high priority.””A specific policy with regard to the Taser was going to be done anyway,” Worcester said. “Once it’s a written policy we’re bound by it. [The police department] wanted to make sure it’s done correctly.” Ryerson said the new policy is taking longer than expected because case law changes so often and because the policy must be cleared through city legal channels. “With a case going on we have to be very thoughtful and careful with it,” Ryerson said. “We want to make sure that what we put out is the most solid.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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