Penn State, State College Borough Release Taser Advisory Committee Findings
An Independent Taser Advisory Committee that looked at the policies and practices of both the State College Police and the Penn State Police released its final report on October 21. As a whole, the report recommended “more public education on Tasers and transparency for the policies that govern their use.”
Tasers were just authorized for use in State College in February of 2015; State College and Penn State police officers were licensed to carry and use Tasers after they completed an 18-month joint study. State College Manager Tom Fountaine and Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer David Gray then appointed the Taser Advisory Committee. The committee was created with the purpose of “conducting an external review of the various use-of-force reports involving Tasers during the first year of their authorization. The committee also was asked to make recommendations on policies, procedures and training regarding the use of Tasers.”
The committee held eight meetings over the course of 12 months beginning in May of 2015 and ending in June of 2016. Likewise, the committee also met quarterly to discuss reports from both police departments on Taser draws and stuns, discharges carried out by law enforcement, and the policies of each department on Taser usage. Since May 2015, the State College Police Department has used a Taser six times, while the Penn State Police have yet to use a Taser.
Some of the recommendations given to both departments include making efforts to gather more information on the use of Tasers in situations dealing with “substance abuse and mental illness as contributing factors, reasons for multiple deployments, injuries sustained during deployment, and demographic data.”
According to Penn State News:
“The committee found that the State College Police Department Policy Manual effectively addressed the administrative and supervisory police policies, procedures and training regarding Taser use, and was able to provide some additional recommendations on policies that would be beneficial to address specific situations and improving transparency. One limitation of the committee’s review was the lack of access to the University’s Taser policy. The policy was withheld in accordance with past practices. Going forward, Penn State’s Noffsinger said that the University plans to follow the advisory committee recommendation and share its Taser policy with the community. Penn State Police also will continue educational efforts on the use of the device in policing situations.”