A new report suggests police in Connecticut are more likely to use stun guns on minorities. Central Connecticut State University released its analysis Thursday of the first statewide data of police stun gun use in the United States.
The report says Hispanics shot with stun guns by police in 2015 were more likely to be fired upon multiple times than other racial groups. Officers across the state fired their stun guns at 419 people last year. Nearly 300 people were injured and two died.
In stun gun incidents involving Hispanics, 27 percent were shocked twice, compared with 18 percent of whites and 15 percent of blacks. When officers pulled out their stun guns, they fired them 60 percent of the time in confrontations involving whites, 81 percent of the time in those involving blacks and 66 percent of the time in those involving Hispanics.
CCSU analysts say the public should not draw conclusions from these numbers because this is the first year the data was ever collected. It will serve as a benchmark moving forward.
Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran agreed with analysts and said race is the last thing on an officer’s mind.
“That doesn’t matter, especially for an officer standing there who has someone charging him with a weapon or not even with a weapon. Using a Taser is more of an immediate decision being made,” Cetran said.
Analysts said the data also reveals that more than a third of the people shot with a stun gun were considered to be emotionally disturbed or suicidal by police.
Also, 53 percent of those shocked were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
David McGuire, the legislative and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said the statistics are troubling.
“Those are classes of people that are deemed vulnerable by Taser International and should not be tased if possible. So the large number of those really sticks out to us as something that needs to be addressed,” McGuire said.
The Wethersfield Police Department had no stun gun incidents last year and Chief Cetran attributes that to the new crisis intervention training his officers recently underwent.
“I think a lot of the officers now understand it, what the person is going through and how to handle it better and to deescalate the situation and not have to use force,” said Cetran.
Cetran predicts the number of emotionally disturbed people being shocked will decrease as more officers are trained statewide.
Moving forward, officials from CCSU and ACLU said they hope to see more detailed reports from police on what led to these situation. McGuire also plans to push the legislature to require Taser cameras.
“I think for the first year of collecting information this is a good start. We’ve opened the window a little bit into the use of these weapons, but I think we want some more information,” Ken Barone, research specialist for the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, said.