City Controller Audits the Use of Tasers by Houston Cops

An audit of the Houston Police Department’s use of tasers finds it an effective tool. But City Controller Annise Parker thinks better monitoring is needed. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Public criticism of the use of tasers by the HPD lead to the audit by Parker. Over 1,400 incidents during a two and a half year period were examined. It found officers used the crime tool more often on black suspects, and that two officers used their tasers more than 13 times. It prompted Council member Wanda Adams to ask Houston Assistant Police Chief Charles McClellan:

Wanda Adams: “Are there any policies within HPD among officers who deploy if it is two times, three times, what happens to that officer if it seems like they’re deploying CEDs more often than average?”

Assistant Chief McClellan: “If we see an officer who uses a CED specifically, and they didn’t follow policy or procedure, they can be brought in for training, counseling, you know, some type of remedial action after the first event. Doesn’t take three, four, five, six, because everyone is reviewed.”

image of Annise Praker speakingAnnise Parker: “We also have to spend more time in determining exactly why these racial and ethnic differences exist. Simply ignoring them or, saying they’re not significant isn’t going to make them go away.”

The audit led to a series of recommendations for the department to better monitor taser use, including the suggestions that each incident in which a suspect is shocked more than four times by an officer be examined. Parker says the department ought to be aware of the extensive use by some officers.

“It’s very clear from our audit that tasers are an effective tool and used well within the Houston Police Department, but what is also clear is that there is a disconnect between how the department believes tasers should be used and how citizens believe tasers are to be used.”

Assistant Chief McClellan:

“I disagree. I don’t think that there is a disconnect because I don’t think that there were clarifications or a full explanation by the controller regarding the alternative to deadly force question.”

A year after two unarmed teens were shot and killed by Houston cops, Chief Harold Hurtt convinced council to approve a 4.7-million dollar contract to arm most officers on the force.

Parker says while it’s believed that the Houston Police Department is managing the tasers well:

“The critical issue again that we don’t believe that they can address in a vacuum, nor can the citizens is, we all have to have a common understanding of when and how tasers are gonna be used.”

Pat Hernandez, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.