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Wake County Sheriff To Stop Issuing Tasers Over Excessive Force Concerns

Wake County Sheriff's Office Legal adviser Rick Brown said that deputies will just have to "go hands-on" instead.

Raleigh, NC – Electronic Control Devices (ECDs) will no longer be issued to new Wake County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputies due to changes to the department’s use-of-force policy.

WCSO legal adviser Rick Brown said that Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker decided to phase out the department’s use of the less-lethal tool in response to a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, WRAL reported.

In that case, the court determined that use of Tasers may qualify as excessive force in some situations.

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Instead of risking liability, the sheriff decided to stop issuing the weapons altogether.

New hires will not be issued ECDs, and when the ECDs deputies are currently carrying stop working, they won’t receive new ones.

With one less tool at their disposal, deputies will be forced to “go hands-on” with combative suspects instead, Brown told WRAL.

Deputies may use baton strikes in place of the ECD weapons.

“Are they happy about it? Of course not. Who would be?” Brown told the news outlet. “By the same token, they are willing to do their job. They don’t want to hurt anybody. That’s not their job.”

The sheriff’s decision to phase out the department’s ECDs was one of several policy changes announced during a deputy training session on Tuesday.

Brown said that de-escalation and patience are at the forefront of the WCSO’s new use-of-force policy.

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“What’s the person’s problem? Can they be reasoned with? What kind of a threat are they to themselves and the officer?” Brown asked the deputies.

“[You need to know] all those things to have sufficient facts before using force,” he declared.

Brown said it is important to gain the public’s trust, and that using force during an encounter should be a last resort.

“We cannot have law enforcement that the public does not believe that law enforcement does not have integrity, and part of that is proper use of force,” he told WRAL.

The WCSO will also be making changes to when and how K9s can be deployed, Brown added.

Alterations to the department’s vehicle pursuit policy have also been implemented.

Instead of leaving deputies to decide when to initiate and end a chase, that call will now be made by supervisors.

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“There have been studies to show that you don’t want somebody who has to concentrate on the driving skills that it takes to pursue somebody to be aware of all these other factors” such as the seriousness of the initial offense, pedestrians, weather conditions, and traffic, Brown told WRAL.

Holly Matkin - June Wed, 2019

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