Ind. officers suspended after using Taser on 10-year-old boy
Two officers called to a home day care to subdue an unruly 10-year-old have been suspended after one used a stun gun on the boy and another slapped him in the mouth, a central Indiana police chief said Thursday.
The child suffered no significant injuries. Both officers have been placed on paid administrative leave while police investigate the confrontation Tuesday at Tender Teddies.
Martinsville Police Chief Jon Davis said he believed the officers could have controlled the 94-pound boy without using force.
“I think they could have just restrained the young man,” he said at a news conference. “Just held him down. Might have ended the situation.”
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department has taken over the investigation, and the police department plans an internal review of the incident, he said.
It was the second time police had been called to the day care for an incident involving the boy, who was not identified. Capt. William Jennings went to the home in February after receiving a report from a neighbor about the boy being chased through his yard.
Jennings, a 36-year veteran, and Officer Darren Johnson responded to the home again Tuesday to find the boy hitting, kicking and spitting on a caretaker as she held him down on the front porch, according to police reports. Another woman, identified as the boy’s guardian, also was on the porch, and several small children watched the struggle from the front yard.
The officers tried to restrain the boy, but he remained combative and kicked Johnson, who has been with the department almost three years, according to police. In a written report, Johnson said he showed the child his stun gun and pushed the button to display the zap of electricity. He told the child he would use the gun if the boy didn’t settle down.
Jennings smacked the boy in the mouth after he yelled an expletive at his guardian, Johnson said. Jennings’ account of the incident doesn’t mention striking the boy.
The boy then lunged at his guardian, and Johnson said he used his stun gun for 1 to 2 seconds. Jennings’ report said the boy calmed down after that.
The officers didn’t attend Thursday’s news conference and did not have listed home telephone numbers. E-mails from the Associated Press sent to their Police Department e-mail addresses went unreturned.
Assistant Police Chief Dan Riffel said neither officer had been disciplined previously before for excessive force. He said he spoke with the boy and his mother Wednesday and the boy’s only injuries were marks on his upper left arm where he was shocked by the stun gun.
Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the Family and Social Services Administration, said Tender Teddies is a licensed home day care and his agency had received no complaints about the facility and was not investigating the incident.
A woman who answered the door at the day care Thursday declined to comment.
Tuesday’s incident was at least the fourth time in two years in which police across the country have used stun guns on children. A police officer in Arkansas was fired in November after using a stun gun on a 10-year-old girl. However, he wasn’t fired for stunning the child but for violating department policy by failing to use a camera attached to the weapon.
The Martinsville police policy is to use stun guns when reasonable, taking into account the size of the officers compared to the subject and whether anyone’s safety is at risk, Davis said.
Stun guns can be safely used on children, although the public may not find that acceptable, said Steve Tuttle, spokesman for Taser International Inc., which made Johnson’s weapon.
Mayor Phil Deckard said he was “sickened” by the incident and officials in the 12,000-person city about 25 miles southwest of Indianapolis wouldn’t tolerate unnecessary force by police officers.
Some neighbors said they thought the officers went too far.
“I don’t think it was right,” said Kenneth Frazier, 55, who lives next door to the day care. “Police are supposed to be trained to be able to deal with adults and children.”