Saturday, January 16, 2010

NC: More stun-gun abuse by cops

Stun gun victim getting $55,000 from Elon police

The Elon Police Department has agreed to pay $55,000 in damages to a man who was standing unarmed on his front stoop in his underwear when an officer shot him with a stun gun. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina announced the settlement Wednesday.

The suit, filed last year in federal court, alleged that Elon police officers used excessive and unlawful force when they twice shocked Alamance County grandfather John Wayne Paylor, now 55, while trying to arrest him on charges of reckless driving and using profanity on a public highway.

Paylor was seeking monetary damages, and he asked the court to rein in Elon police officers' Taser use until more training was provided. A settlement was reached this week, according to an ACLU news release.

Under the agreement, the Elon police department agreed to provide more training for its officers and change its policy so it's consistent with other law enforcement agencies that the ACLU says have measures to safeguard against excessive use of the stun guns.

"We are happy with the settlement, as this was a flagrant abuse of authority by members of the Elon Police Department," said Mark J. Prak, one of the lawyers working with the ACLU of North Carolina. "John Paylor did nothing to deserve this treatment, as the police videotape clearly demonstrates. This was a case of an officer abusing his position as a police officer to satisfy his own ego." Attempts to reach the Elon police chief were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The ACLU of North Carolina, a founding member of a Taser safety project, wants uniform policies for police and sheriff departments on when, where and how law enforcement should use Tasers.

Paylor issued a statement Wednesday saying he was happy with the settlement. "What these officers did to me was wrong," Paylor said. "My hope is that this settlement will prevent others from having to suffer what I suffered at the hands of the Elon police."

Scott Holmes, a Durham defense lawyer who first brought attention to the case, said he was pleased with the ruling. "This case should send a clear signal to law enforcement agencies that a Taser should be used in situations of self-defense," Holmes said, "and not to force a suspect to comply with commands."

Original report here

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