Tasers and Race

Houston Mayor Bill White says there is no evidence that Houston police officers engage in racial profiling. His comments come a day after local activists accused the department of targeting African Americans. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnons reports.

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Numbers released by the Houston Police Department this week show officers have deployed tasers 982 times since 2004. Of those incidents, 63 percent of the people tasered were African-American. Activists from the NAACP and other minority rights groups say HPD officers unfairly target African-Americans and have asked HPD to place a moratorium on taser use. Houston Mayor Bill White says tasers are a good tool for officers to have and he is confident in the policies set in place.

"It's against the police policy to discriminate. Unfortunately, there's a disproportionate number of the victims and people who call for service that are in minority areas. And we try to respond to those calls and to serve those customers."

HPD officials say taser policies and training do not allow an officer to use a taser on someone who is passively resistant or merely verbally combative. There must be a perceived physical threat to themselves or others. The mayor says there is no reason to believe HPD is targeting minority groups.

"I'm comfortable that the rank and file of our police department is not deciding to use tasers on one part of the population based on any illegitimate consideration."

The mayor did add he would like to see the department doing regular analysis of their statistics, to look for trends or problems that could come up. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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