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In the Media: Police Didn't Follow Taser Safety Rules; Crackdown on Landlords Over Lead Exposure

User GoBlue85
Wikimedia Commons
Baltimore Police Officers at Camden Yards

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Shocking force – Police in Maryland Didn't Follow Taser Safety Recommendations in Hundreds of Incidents

“More than 400 people have died nationwide since 2009 in encounters in which police used electronic-control weapons such as Tasers, a Sun analysis shows. California tops the list with more than 60 deaths. Maryland ranks in the top 15 with 11 deaths, including five who died after being hit by Tasers for longer than what is now recommended.

“The Sun's analysis of Taser use in Maryland found:

  • "Nearly 60 percent of those hit by Tasers in Maryland were described by police as 'non-compliant and non-threatening,' according to data from 2012 when the state began collecting data through 2014.
  • "In one out of every 10 incidents, police discharged the weapon for longer than 15 seconds — a duration that exceeds recommendations from Taser International, the U.S. Department of Justice and policing experts. The data downloaded directly from the devices often shows more activations than officers document in police reports.
  • "Officers fired the weapons at the chest in 119 incidents in 2014 — even though Taser has warned since 2009 that doing so could cause cardiac arrest. Data from earlier years only shows when police struck the 'front torso,' which includes the chest. That happened hundreds of times.
  • "According to police reports and other accounts, three people died after being repeatedly hit by a Taser in ‘drive-stun’ mode, when the hand-held device is pushed directly onto the body, and two died after being hit with multiple Tasers at the same time. Both practices are discouraged by Taser and policing experts. In another death, a coroner determined a man was in handcuffs and face-down on the ground when an officer hit him with a Taser.
  • "Taser policies from 15 Maryland police departments with the most stun gun use vary widely. Some don't incorporate the warnings Taser has issued over the years or safety recommendations from national policing experts. Harford County's Taser policy is 53 words and stresses each use must be reported — except when used during training or on animals.
  • "In four Taser-related deaths, the state medical examiner's office found that 'excited' or ‘agitated’ delirium was a contributing factor. Some police agencies have enlisted consultants to train officers how to spot the condition and to call medics before deploying Tasers when they do. Symptoms are behaviors police often encounter, including incoherent speech and shouting, agitation and distress.”

Full Article

From the AFRO American: Baltimore Officials Seek Crackdown on Landlords Over Lead Exposure

“Too many Baltimore landlords are renting “under the radar”—that is, failing to register their rental properties with the Maryland Department of the Environment—and lead exposure and poisoning is often the end result, according to City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

“In February, the Baltimore City Council adopted a resolution calling for increased cooperation between city, state and federal officials to bring Baltimore’s lead paint poisoning crisis under control.  Lawmakers also want to see additional state-level changes that will better protect Baltimore’s children.  Currently, more than 56,000 Baltimore children under age six are at risk from lead poisoning, according to Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner.

“But communication between City and State lawmakers on lead compliance hasn’t heated up following last month’s City Council resolution, said Clarke.

“‘So many landlords have just stopped registering their units and certifying their units,’ she said. ‘People really don’t have a dependable guideline about where to rent. First of all, the landlords have to register their properties and then from there go through the certification process.’

“Effective January 2015, landlords owning rental units built prior to 1978 must register with the Maryland Department of the Environment within 30 days of property acquisition.  Lead inspections are required of all registered properties and must be conducted by an MDE accredited lead paint inspector.

“‘We need more oversight from the state’ said Pat Clarke. ‘It is a requirement for landlords to register. If we don’t even know where the units are, the whole process breaks down.’

“It remains unclear how many properties in Baltimore contain lead paint. Many rental properties are not registered.  The Baltimore City Health Department maintains a list of properties with active lead level violations; more than 400 addresses are currently listed including both occupied and unoccupied dwellings.  There is no proactive city mandate for lead paint certification.”

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Supreme Court Wrestles With Evidence From Illegal Police Stops

“The Supreme Court is considering a case that could have a significant impact on how police interact with criminal suspects in high-crime cities such as Baltimore, potentially rewriting the rules for when an officer may detain someone, and whether drugs and guns found during an illegal stop can be used as evidence.

“In the latest in a recent series of high-profile Fourth Amendment cases to come before the court, the justices are wrestling with the circumstances under which police may use evidence they find after they make a stop that is subsequently determined to be unconstitutional.

“The case, Utah v. Strieff, involves a veteran narcotics detective who stopped a 46-year-old man in 2006 as he left a suspected drug house. The officer had no reason to believe the man had committed a crime, and the state acknowledged the stop was illegal. But the officer discovered the man had an outstanding warrant, arrested him and then found he was carrying methamphetamine.

“Civil rights advocates are concerned that a ruling for the police could give law enforcement an incentive to stop more people — particularly in high crime areas — on questionable legal grounds, as fishing expeditions for warrants that would justify a search.

“There are some 35,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Baltimore, according to police.”

Full Article