Firing Proper for Use of Taser on Addled Senior
(CN) - A police officer who repeatedly Tasered a naked nursing home patient with Alzheimer's disease was properly fired, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.
Doug Martin, an officer in Peru, Ind., had been summoned to Miller's Merry Manor on June 17, 2012, after a nurse called 911 for help in transporting a patient who had hit his roommate, a nurse and a nursing assistant.
Martin and his partner, Officer Jeremy Brindle, entered the Alzheimer's ward to find 64-year-old James Howard sitting in a chair, wearing socks and nothing else. Howard refused the officers' command to lie on a gurney and advanced toward Brindle, who tried to handcuff Howard.
When Brindle lost control of one of Howard's wrists, Martin yelled "Taser" and deployed it on Howard's torso. Martin zapped Howard five times for a total of 31 seconds.
Howard's wife complained, and Martin was fired after a department investigation and a hearing before the city's Board of Public Works and Safety. The reasons for his termination were excessive force and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Martin took the case to the Miami Superior Court, which overturned Martin's firing, citing more than 100 "reasons that the decision should not be affirmed."
The city of Peru and its police department appealed the ruling, arguing that the trial court had substituted its opinion for that of the board.
In another reversal last week, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Martin was properly fired, citing the testimony of Jon Jumper who trained Martin on the use of a Taser.
"Jumper testified that Martin had specifically been instructed - in the recertification presentation - on the increased risk of death or serious injury for exposure over 15 seconds, whether due to multiple applications or continuous cycling," Judge Lloyd Bailey wrote for a three-member panel.
"Intervals to achieve compliance were very short, with only a two-second interval between the third and fourth deployments. Moreover, it is noteworthy that Howard was handcuffed after the third Taser application," Bailey added.
The panel chided the lower court for having "disregarded evidence favorable to (the board's) decision, credited the testimony of witnesses that the trial court did not personally hear, and misstated evidence regarding the scope of Martin's training. In short, the trial court reweighed the evidence and reassessed the credibility of witnesses."