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Police review Taser use on student

FLORIDA TODAY | June 2, 2005

According to a report by Palm Bay Sgt. Ken Arnold, police used a Taser 46 times in 2004, compared with 44 the previous year. In 2004, 20 people were injured as a result of being stunned, compared with 12 injuries in 2003.

Nearly a month after the creation of countywide guidelines restricting the use of stun gun on children, a Palm Bay police officer is under review for using a Taser on a 15-year-old Southwest Middle School student.

It was the last day of school and a 5-foot-6, 130-pound female student was being disruptive, school officials say.

A resource officer was investigating rumors of a fight just as hundreds of students were changing classes. The officer approached the student in a patio area in the middle of the school. The eighth-grader struggled with the officer and a male teacher asked to help try to calm her.

"We had a student who was out of control," Southwest Principal Robin Novelli said Wednesday.

That's when Officer Heather Humes discharged the Taser and its 50,000 volts. Moments later, the student was handcuffed and removed from the scene, police said.

"I'm very grateful to have an excellent school resource officer on campus," Novelli said. "Occasionally, we're going to have students with some problems, and we're going to need to address them quickly."

The student, whom police did not identify because she is a minor, was charged with misdemeanor counts of disruption of school and resisting without violence.

Palm Bay police Chief William Berger said the incident is under administrative review. Humes remains on duty, officials said.

"I think the officer handled it prudently. The student was just uncontrollable," Berger said.

Concern nationwide about the use and abuse of stun guns by police is what led to the local guidelines. The nonbinding guidelines restrict the use of the popular stun guns on children, pregnant women, the disabled and the elderly. Berger helped craft them.

"What the chiefs here in Brevard came up with were guidelines. But it's interpretive," Berger said.

The parents of the child could not be reached for comment.


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