Taser experts question use of force on Marin man

September 1, 2010 7:26:25 PM PDT
The story of a Marin County man being Tased in his own home is still raising eyebrows across the country. Experts on the use of Tasers are among the many who question whether the deputies' use of force was appropriate.

One of the two experts has served in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose on various commissions which monitor police activities. The other expert has been training police officers for more than four decades. Both came to similar conclusions.

"He's trying to get his hands behind his back," Don Cameron said.

Cameron is a former police officer who trains law enforcement on the use of weapons and the proper use of force when making arrests. He reviewed the video of 64-year-old Peter McFarland being Tased in his own home by a Marin County Sheriff's deputy in June 2009.

McFarland had just been treated by paramedics for injuries suffered when he fell down the steps outside his house when two sheriff's deputies arrived.

Video from a camera mounted on one of the deputy's Taser shows a laser beam is targeted on McFarland's chest.

The deputy says he is going to take McFarland to the hospital because he may be suicidal.

"We want to take you to the hospital for an evaluation, you said if you had a gun, you'd shoot yourself in the head," the deputy said.

McFarland says it was just a crack he made because of the pain of his injuries.

The deputy orders McFarland numerous times to get up, warning him he will be Tased if he does not comply. McFarland refuses while his wife tells the deputies he has a heart condition.

When McFarland finally gets up, he is Tased, not once, but three times before he is handcuffed.

Cameron says McFarland was only a passive resistor. In other words, he was refusing orders but not aggressively. He says the deputy should have talked to him and used hand holds to restrain him before pulling out his Taser.

"The officers should have tried hand technique and if those were unsuccessful, the person tried to pull away, then yes, use the intermediate weapon, use the Taser," Cameron said. "But why go to the Taser right away?"

Barbara Attard agrees. She is past president of the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

She did not see any reason to use a Taser.

"Unless Tasers are used carefully and within guidelines and with strict policies in training, you know, departments, it's going to cost them a lot of money or they're going to have the ability to use Tasers taken away from them," Attard said.

McFarland sued Marin County on Monday. The Sheriff's Department sent a written response, saying in part "it takes charges of excessive force seriously," but they are confident the deputies will be vindicated when all the facts are in.

ABC7 has asked if an investigation into the incident has been opened but has not yet received a reply.


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