HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut police departments are set to become the first in the nation required by law to keep track and report every instance in which an officer discharges a stun gun.
The legislation now before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and followed the April 13th death of 22-year-old Jose Maldonado of Manchester. He was shocked by East Hartford police after they say he became combative during his booking on an assault charge.
It was the 14th stun-gun related death involving police in Connecticut since 2005, and the 10th involving a minority, according the ACLU of Connecticut.
"We needed to act," said state Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, D-New Haven, who sponsored the legislation. "There needs to be a mechanism in place where we can really monitor the use of these Tasers."
The bill, pushed through in the final hours of the General Assembly session, would also mandate that departments adopt training and procedures developed by the state's Police Officer Standards and Training Council for using the electronic weapons.
The measure was approved as an amendment, replacing language in a bill that had been originally designed to regulate license plate scanners. It passed on votes of a 102-38 in the House and 35-1 in the Senate.
Candelaria said Malloy is expected to sign the bill. Malloy's office said the governor was reviewing the legislation.
State Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, opposed the bill. He said the law will make officers more reluctant to use stun guns, which could lead to them being injured or killed.
"Although the event in East Hartford was tragic, it was a clear outlier, and should not have led to this risky policy decision," he said.
David McGuire, an attorney with the ACLU of Connecticut, said the organization hopes the law becomes a national model. New Jersey's attorney general collects some stun-gun data from police in that state, but this would be the first law to require it, he said.
"It will really give a lot of insight into how Tasers are being used and who they are being used on," he said.
Cromwell Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, the legislative chair of the Connecticut police chief's association, said every department that uses electrical weapons already trains its officers in their proper use. But Salvatore, who helped write the stun-gun procedures for the state training council, said the police chiefs are not opposed to the new law.
"We developed these policies after bringing several groups together to address these concerns," he said.
Among other things, the policies prohibit the use of stun guns "in a punitive or coercive manner," on handcuffed criminals or when someone can be "reasonably dealt with in any other less intrusive fashion." It also outlines when they can be used simply to induce compliance through pain, rather than to disable a suspect.
Scot X. Esdaile, the president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said his organization has been pushing for a ban on stun gun use since 2011, when a handcuffed African-American man died after being shocked by Waterbury police.
"These have been used as instruments of torture, not as they sold it to us originally, as an alternative to deadly force," he said. "This is an important step."