Several months ago, a rural Central Texas Deputy Sheriff who was working as a school officer used his Taser on a student. As a result of the shock, the student fell backward, hit his head and later went into a coma.
There was an immediate outpouring of anger against the deputy and an equal outpouring of sympathy for the student and his family. The family retained legal counsel, school officials apologized and social media exploded. There was also a video of the incident. It was played over and over and over on the national news. The ethnicity of the student was different from that of the white deputy.
The national media came to the hospital and the small town where it happened and interviewed anyone who would speak with them. It wasn’t long before the media began calling CLEAT. I was working out of town, so the CLEAT public affairs division assured the reporters that the deputy wasn’t a CLEAT member and we had no information that they didn’t already have.
However, as the situation turned political, the CBS national evening news crew kept calling. There were two reasons: 1) The deputy’s statewide union refused to be interviewed on camera. 2) CLEAT has been the organization that has spent years in the state Capitol defending your right to use a stun gun.
When I got to the CLEAT State Headquarters, the CBS news team from New York were camped out in my office. The first questions were national in scope. Then came the questions about the specific Texas case. I defended the honor of the deputy although I didn’t know any facts of the case. That’s what CLEAT does.
We’re not afraid of the national media and we always take the side of the working law enforcement personnel.
I stood my ground as a police apologist for Taser use; they’ve saved lives and officer injuries are down. So are the injuries to those being arrested.
I have been a strong advocate for the local control of Taser training and operating procedures. I’ve always believed the best Taser Use Policy will be in the General Order written for a law enforcement agency headed by a police chief answering to an elected city council or a Sheriff elected by the voters.
CLEAT has always pushed back against having a statewide law enforcement Taser Use policy handed down by the state legislature.
As the questions intensified, I realized why they wanted to speak with me. During the past legislative session in 2013, CLEAT testified in opposition to a moratorium on the deployment of stun guns in schools. The reporter hammered me pretty hard on our position of supporting the use of Tasers, period. And she was pretty pushy about why law enforcement officers assigned to schools need them at all.
In the end, it got kind of testy, but I hoped the takeaway for the viewer of the CBS Evening News was that if you have Texas cops in your school—they will have their Taser. No question about it.
If you don’t want a real Texas Peace Officer in your school, hire a security guard. Or have the parents take turns walking around guarding the school. Hire babysitters if you want.
The school belongs to the taxpayers and the local school board is elected. So, do whatever you want. But if you hire or assign an officer to work a school, we want he or she to have all the tools they need to be able to do their job and win the peace.
While this was happening, there were middle school reading assignments going out across the state strongly criticizing the use of Tasers in schools. In fact, the CLEAT Executive Board unanimously passed a resolution that we sent to the Texas Education Agency protesting the strong didactic language and the leading questions that would cause students to believe officers were somehow the bad guys for simply bringing their equipment to work.
It seems relatively clear that the far left and the far right are joining forces to create a super libertarian-leaning bloc that fully intend to weaken your arrest authority and jurisdictional rights.
The left will continue to beat the drum that Tasers are used far too often on minorities, people of low income, and people of color. While the far right will work the other side of the street warning of a police state, erosion of individual rights and even push for schools to be Taser free.
The 2015 Legislative Session in Texas will be one in which Texas Peace Officers will see major attacks against your technological advances as well as your authority to do your job.
My advice is to cling to your Taser, your gun and whatever religion you have left. Stay tuned.