Despite a panel’s recommendations, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department will not adjust its policies regarding the use of stun guns on suspects, according to a report to be submitted to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The Riverside County Grand Jury issued a report in July citing apparent deficiencies in the sheriff’s “Less-Lethal Devices” policy, mainly in relation to the deployment of Tasers.
The jury, an independent panel composed of 19 residents who serve yearlong terms, studied one incident in which deputies had “Tased” an individual “eight times … in a span of less than one minute.”
The panel noted that the sheriff’s own guidelines call for a “maximum of four effective (Taser) applications per incident” and recommended that the department “establish a written policy detailing the number of times an X-26 Taser may be used on an individual within a specified time frame.”
But in its response, which the board will consider at its Tuesday meeting, the sheriff’s department said there would be no modification to its less-lethal procedures.
The department emphasized that its current policy “strictly limits the use of force to that which is reasonably necessary to overcome any resistance or force.”
“Respondent believes restrictions for time frames would inappropriately restrict personnel’s ability to react to a wide range of force incidents and unreasonably expose the county to potential liability,” according to the sheriff’s response.
In its report, the jury also recommended that supervisors analyze each Taser deployment to ensure excessive force wasn’t used, but the sheriff’s department responded that such a policy has been in place for more than four years.
According to the grand jury, less-lethal devices are inconsistently applied in the county jail system, with some correctional deputies utilizing pepper spray to subdue uncooperative inmates, while other deputies rely on stun guns.
The panel said a change was needed in the sheriff’s Corrections Division Policy to “provide guidance regarding the prioritization of the use of less- lethal weapons.”
The sheriff disagreed, maintaining that current policy “provides sufficient guidance … while recognizing the required flexibility in dealing with varying circumstances related to use of force incidents.”
The configuration of jail cells might often be a determining factor, according to sheriff’s officials.
In July 2009, a man died at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta after deputies used a stun gun to try to get him under control, though there was no conclusive evidence the inmate’s death was directly linked to being Tased.
A few weeks later, a Moreno Valley man, apparently high on drugs and refusing to cooperate, died after deputies used a Taser to detain him.