Vt. lawmakers seek statewide policy on stun guns - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers seek statewide policy on stun guns

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Macadam Mason Macadam Mason
MONTPELIER, Vt. -

"Macadam was a quiet fellow," Jim Masland said.

Masland got to know his Thetford neighbor Macadam Mason during car rides.

"I got to know him hitchhiking, picking him up from time to time, giving him rides around town," Masland said.

Mason suffered from epilepsy and mental illness and didn't drive himself. He died one year ago. The father of three was tased in the chest by a Vt. state trooper during a confrontation outside Mason's home and killed.

"Macadam Mason's death did not need to occur at all," Masland said.

Now Mason's neighbor, who's also a state representative, is calling for comprehensive standards for all officers using stun guns, especially when dealing with people suffering from mental illness.

"We hope these efforts will avoid another senseless death," Masland said.

Rep. Masland joined other lawmakers, mental health professionals and civil rights advocates to push a new Taser bill at the Statehouse.

"I do look forward to action on it," said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield.

The bill to be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes has 32 co-sponsors. It calls for a statewide policy on Taser use, more training for officers, more oversight and an independent review when police use a Taser.

"That's the critical missing link," Donahue said. "We don't have consistent training about the dangers, risks, the potential use in situations that could have been de-escalated if training in these interventions was across all lines."

Police say when used correctly, these electronic control devices actually save lives. And that's why there is not a call for an outright ban on Tasers from this group.

Vermont's Public Safety Commissioner declined to talk on camera because Mason's family is suing.

"I think law enforcement does a great job in Vermont in ensuring we use them properly," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

The governor backs the police, not the bill.

"My opinion is we don't need a bill, we need common sense. Working together as we do in Vermont with mental health providers to be sure they are used properly. When tragedy happens it breaks our hearts, but we have to remember that Tasers are an important tool for law enforcement," Shumlin said.

But for friends and family of Macadam Mason, status quo is not enough after this tragedy.

"We all miss him," Masland said.

The trooper who tased Macadam Mason was cleared of any wrongdoing by the attorney general.

Mason's family is suing the trooper and the state over what happened.

The public safety commissioner declined an on camera interview, but released a statement saying, "The Department's Taser and use of force policies are continually evaluated and revised to reflect the best available practices."

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