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Shumlin signs statewide policy on police stun gun use - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Shumlin signs statewide policy on police stun gun use

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MacAdam Mason MacAdam Mason
MONTPELIER, Vt. -

A new law makes Vermont the first state in the nation to dictate how police officers use their stun guns.

The new law calls for the creation of a policy to determine how and when the weapon should be used and the adoption of that yet-to-be-written policy by police departments across the state.

The family of a man who died following a tasing two years ago say it comes too late for their loved one, but may save others in the future.

In the midst of a mental health crisis, MacAdam Mason threatened suicide during a call to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in June 2012.

Police arrived on-scene to help the Thetford man but tased Mason in the chest in an effort to pacify him.

Mason died shortly thereafter and the medical examiner found the stun gun to be the cause.

"It means a lot to me that no other family will ever have to suffer this pain," said Rhonda Taylor, mother of Mason.

Taylor stood by the side of Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, Tuesday as he signed an electronic weapons bill.

The bill calls for the creation of a statewide policy to determine how and when tasers should be used.

The new rules will only allow police to use the device if someone presents a threat to themselves or others and doing so is the only way to prevent injury.

Officers will be mandated to receive training on the proper use of tasers and identifying vulnerable individuals.

The bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, says had the protections been in place in 2012, Mason would likely be alive today.

"It's a tragedy that it took his death to bring this into clear focus," said Rep. Masland.

"We were able to come together on a really good compromise for this bill and it's a good start," said Taylor.

Taylor says she's encouraged by the bill, but joins voices from the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont in calling for more protections in the future.

She wants to see devices routinely tested and force officers who carry the weapon to wear body-cameras to see if police use them appropriately.

While the law does dictate some elements of the policy it has not been written yet.

That task falls to the Law Enforcement Advisory Board. They have until January of next year to work on the policy, and departments must adopt it by the following year.

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