The outrage was clear after the death of Macadam Mason last year. The Thetford man, a brain injury survivor, who suffered from seizures was tased by a trooper during an encounter at his home. The medical examiner says the electric shock killed him.
"I want you to know about the person my son was, not just the name," said Mason's mother, Rhonda Taylor, back in April. Taylor joined advocates for the mentally ill and other vulnerable populations, pushing lawmakers for changes to how Vermont officers train for and use Tasers. Lawmakers did not vote on the Taser bills, but the state's law enforcement advisory board is now set to vote on a policy for police, and key advocates like the ACLU of Vermont don't like it.
"The draft Taser policy was a disappointment to us," said the ACLU's Allen Gilbert.
The ACLU filed comments on the draft policy, pointing out several concerns, including -- that it does not require regular testing of weapons to make sure they are emitting a standard charge, that the standard for police use of force is too broad and makes excessive force "almost guaranteed," and that it allows Tasers to be used on "special populations" like people with cognitive impairment.
"Policy says you should think about this but it doesn't say, do not shoot a mentally disturbed, a mentally ill or a disabled person with a Taser except in extreme circumstances. It doesn't say that and it really should," Gilbert said.
Reporter Kristin Kelly: What about those populations, those vulnerable populations? Why did the group come up with a policy that would trigger so much criticism?
Richard Gauthier/Vermont Law Enforcement Advisory Board Chair: The policy we put together was, we used a number of policies from around the state and that was consistent in those policies.
Law Enforcement Advisory Board Chair Rick Gauthier says the policy is still a draft and could change before it's voted on later this month. The board got so many comments that pointed out many of the same concerns that it will allow public comments at a meeting to review the comments next Friday. "We're hoping more clarity on both sides will help us come to a better product," he said.
No matter what Taser policy gets final approval by the Advisory Board, it still will not be mandatory for all police agencies, just a strong recommendation. Local governments control individual departments. The only way Taser rules can truly be required statewide is if lawmakers pass a bill.