After a report showed Tasers are disproportionately used on black males by police officers, the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Executive Committee decided Monday to continue looking into use of the weapon.
Taser usage by the Madison Police Department, online criminal records and efforts to minimize racial disparities in Dane County were addressed Monday by the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Executive Committee.
A report issued by Madison Police Department Officer Timothy Harder in January of this year noted since the Taser program’s inception in 2003, 377 of the 438 commissioned personnel had been trained in proper Taser usage.
In 2009, 44 percent of Taser deployments were against white males. Forty-two percent were against black males.
A separate report from MPD showed black males accounted for 137 of the 294 Taser deployments, while white males accounted for only 111 since the program began.
The EOC had previously formed a committee to address the disparities in Taser usage. Commission members noted though the gap had lessened in the past year, care must yet be taken to address what many believed to be a disproportionate usage against black males.
EOC member Donna Hurd said although she would not portray the disparity as a targeting of black males, the issue must continue to be investigated.
Numerous commission members noted Tasers appeared to be used increasingly while handling misdemeanor offenses, accounting for 79 percent of deployments in 2009.
“What strikes me is the severity of the offense — increasingly officers are using Tasers with greater frequency for misdemeanors,” EOC member Coco Bustamante said.
The EOC decided to once again begin to look at Taser usage and receive feedback from MPD Chief Noble Wray regarding the matter.
The implementation of recommendations by the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System had last week been stymied by at least one county committee that said the task force’s implementation team needed to be better planned and recommendations thoroughly researched before implementation would be viable.
EOC President Nia Enemuoh-Trammell said there are two ways to make the implementation of recommendations more viable. The first is to press City Council for stronger support from policymakers, and the second is to make public the recommendations and garner volunteers from a wide range of viewpoints in the community.
The commission agreed the implementation of the recommendations was urgent to the continued image of Madison as a fair, progressive city and decided to more actively press the issue in coming months.
Also at the meeting, an assembly bill that would limit the access to criminal records through Wisconsin’s Consolidated Court Automation Programs drew mixed responses from commission members.
The bill stipulates that a person who discriminates in hiring processes, housing or other public accommodations from records viewed through CCAP without informing the searched individual could be fined $1,000.
Criminal proceedings that may have been dismissed or otherwise resolved could be removed from CCAP records if an amendment to the Supreme Court’s rules is passed in coming months. The issue of relying on no longer applicable information was scrutinized by the EOC.
“I’m not troubled by access to accurate information,” EOC member Steven Morrison said. “What bothers me is the access to information to that may have been expunged.”
Discussion and action on the matter was referred to the EOC’s next meeting.