Monday, November 15, 2004
jaynote: I applaud him
Police taser 12 year old truant girlA Miami-Dade police officer used a Taser to stop an unarmed, 12-year-old girl who was running away from him after she was caught skipping school, police acknowledged Friday night.

The incident happened Nov. 5, just over two weeks after other Miami-Dade officers used a stun gun to restrain a first-grader. In that case, police said the 6-year-old boy was holding a shard of glass and threatening to cut himself. Police Director Bobby Parker defended the decision to shock the boy because he could have seriously hurt himself.

But Parker said Friday that he could not defend the decision to shock the fleeing 12-year-old, who was apparently drunk.

''Under the circumstances, we thought that he should not have used the Taser,'' Parker said referring to the officer. ``It's likely that discipline will be forthcoming.''

According to the incident report:

Officer William Nelson responded to an anonymous complaint that some kids were swimming in a West Kendall pool, drinking alcohol and smoking cigars about 11 a.m.

Nelson said he noticed the girl was intoxicated and told her to get dressed so he could take her back to school.

''While walking [the girl] to the police car, [she] took off running through the parking lot,'' Nelson wrote in his report.

Nelson, 38, a 15-year veteran, said he chased her and yelled several times for her to stop. Nelson said he pulled out the Taser and fired when the girl began to run into traffic.

The electric probes hit the girl in the neck and lower back, immobilizing her with 50,000 volts.

Nelson said he fired ''for my safety along with [the girl's] safety.'' He could not be reached for comment.

Paramedics treated the girl, who went home with her mother.

Parker said department policy permits officers to use the Taser to apprehend someone, but he said he expected his officers to use better judgment -- especially when police had no plans to arrest someone playing hooky.

''If you use it to apprehend an adult, it would be an arrest kind of situation,'' said Parker, adding that the timing of the latest incident couldn't be any worse.

His department is already under fire for using a Taser to subdue the 6-year-old last month. That zapping has made national headlines and prompted calls from child advocates that Miami-Dade review its Taser use.

Parker said Friday night that his department will review its Taser policy. ''That doesn't mean that we're going to change it,'' he said.

County Commissioner Joe Martinez, a former Miami-Dade officer, said the policy needs to be tightened.

''When you have a 6-year-old who is on medication and very disturbed, maybe some of that crisis intervention training would be very handy,'' he said, referring to a program that teaches officers how to deal with the mentally ill. ``Now, when I learn that a 12-year-old girl was running away, truant, and was also Tasered, I think it's time we instruct the county manager to look at that policy.''

Asked if his officers had shocked any other kids, Parker said: ``I asked the same question, are there more of these out there that I'm not aware of? To my knowledge this is the only one.''

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