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Maryland Police in Hot Water Over Unlawful Taser Use

By Alpert Schreyer on July 26, 2016

Police SirensUnlawful police force has been a hot button issue in the news recently, and Maryland is no stranger to legal troubles over wrongful deaths of detainees in police custody. While the officer involved in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted early this year, other police officers may be in legal trouble over the unlawful use of Tasers in hundreds of incidents over the last several years.

Report Finds That Police Did Not Follow Safety Recommendations

The Baltimore Sun conducted a six-month investigation that found a serious pattern of Taser abuse by Maryland police. In most events where Tasers were used, the study found that suspects had posed no immediate threat; almost 60 percent of suspects hit with Tasers between 2012 and 2014 were described in official police reports as “non-compliant and non-threatening.” In hundreds of cases studied over a three-year period, police did not follow safety recommendations for using the devices. In one of every ten incidents, the Sun found that police discharged the Taser for longer than 15 seconds, exceeding the recommendations from Taser International, the U.S. Department of Justice, and police experts. Indeed, 119 incidents showed police officers firing Tasers at suspects’ chests, despite warnings dating back to 2009 that such contact can cause cardiac arrest. The study found that Maryland ranks in the top 15 states with the most Taser-related police deaths, with 11 fatalities as of March 2016.

On the heels of the Sun’s report, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which includes Maryland, ruled that police use of a Taser on an unarmed, mentally ill man who was resisting arrest by holding onto a pole amounted to unreasonably excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Court reasoned that the man was not a risk simply because he was resisting. While most police officers have immunity from civil lawsuits like personal injury or wrongful death claims due to the nature of their jobs, this ruling, among others, suggests that police may be subject to such lawsuits when they cross the line.

Maryland is not the only state encountering issues with Taser use. Body cam video footage showed Georgia police high-fiving after Tasering a man for over four minutes, which resulted in his death. Similarly,
Virginia police are facing a wrongful death lawsuit after a 46-year old man died from being tased over 20 times in 30 minutes, according to the his family.

Maryland Teeming With Wrongful Death Settlements

This is not the first time Maryland police officers have face punishment for brutal and unnecessary treatment of those in their custody. In 2015, the mayor and Board of Estimates in Maryland agreed to pay $80,000 to a 37-year-old man who was beaten by police in East Baltimore in 2011. Another settlement for $175,000 was awarded in 2015 to the estate of a man who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2012. Yet another settlement was reached in the amount of $145,000 early this year for the surviving family members of a man who was shot and killed by Baltimore police in 2012. In total, the city of Baltimore has agreed to pay nearly $13 million in settlements since 2011 for lawsuits claiming police brutality.

Do You Have a Wrongful Death Claim?

If your loved one lost their life as a result of another’s actions, consult an experienced attorney to help you understand what rights you have during this difficult time. The experienced Maryland wrongful death attorneys at the law office of Alpert Schreyer, LLC will fight to ensure that you receive any compensation you may be entitled to, and we won’t collect fees until we get you the damages you deserve. Call us at 301-932-9997 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation today.

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