South Carolina doesn’t train law enforcement agents to use Tasers

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 4:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It’s been a little more than a month since video was released of an inmate, with a mental illness, being tased multiple times inside the Charleston County jail and ultimately died.

The video itself is extremely disturbing, bringing up many questions regarding why Jamal Sutherland was tased so many times. According to the Sutherland family’s lawyer, he was tased nine times in 60 seconds.

“The weapon is automatic and it gives you what we call a five second ride and then stops,” University of South Carolina Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Geoffrey Alpert says. “Now you can repull the trigger and that’s going to give you another five second ride. And most of the training I’ve seen says you don’t do it more than three times, but after each one you’ve got to reassess. Why am I doing this again?”

Alpert walked through what it’s like being tased.

“If the prongs hit, and what happens in the X-26 – which is the most common weapon – one prong goes straight and the other prong goes down several degrees so you get some separation,” Alpert explains. “The more separation you have, the more electricity is going to impact your muscles. For example, if I hit you in the shoulder and then in the leg, everything between your leg and your shoulder is not only going to hurt, it’s going to incapacitate your body.”

Alpert says the use of “Conductive Electronic Weapons” or CEWs – Tasers are a brand of those – has gone down over the last several years.

“The Fourth Circuit, several years ago, came down with a ruling that Tasers are what we call serious force,” Alpert says. “They kind of created a new level for them.”

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy is the school all law enforcement agents must complete when entering the force. However, after reaching out SCCJA Director Jackie Swindler says they don’t teach Taser training at the state level.

“That’s an individual thing that an agency can decide whether or not they issue that piece of equipment or not,” Swindler said. “So for purposes of time, and consistency, we teach what every officer would know or should know or could know.”

Swindler says every few years they do a job task analysis – basically contacting the different agencies asking if there were anything else they would like to see officers trained in.

“So then we revise and then because we see trends throughout the country of things that have happened or may have happened and we think we need to train on that,” Swindler says. “We do that every few years. And at least every two years we look at the curriculum that we are teaching and we revise it.”

At this point, Swindler says they are not rethinking adding training with CEWs or Tasers to its curriculum.

“No, that’s still an individual agency decision that they do that,” Swindler says.

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 272 law enforcement agencies in South Carolina.

At this point, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has not shared a copy of their policy regarding CEWs or Tasers – despite Live 5′s requests.

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