Shawn Elliot Zetzer

The impacts of the April 2008 incident involving the death of Miami University graduate Kevin Piskura who sustained injuries from a taser used by an Oxford police officer outside of Brick Street were still being discussed at a city council special meeting Tuesday evening.

The city council meeting consisted of a discussion concerning the moratorium on taser use by Oxford police. With testimony from Oxford police officers, city residents and the company responsible for taser training, Taser International, the conversation quickly became passionate.

“If you were working, would you want all the tools not with you?” Sgt. Dennis Colyer said in front of nearly 30 Oxford residents, including representatives from Oxford Citizens for Peace and Justice – a group that supports the temporary prohibition of the Oxford Police Department’s (OPD) use of tasers.

Colyer said he believes that not allowing officers to use tasers when necessary doesn’t give them enough force to control hostile subjects, which would handcuff officers’ ability to protect themselves and others.

He said he believes in allowing the officer to do whatever necessary for the safety of the officer and bystanders.

Oxford resident Janis Dutton spoke to the council at length against Taser International’s training policies and its effects on this event. Although investigators determined the police officer who tased Piskura acted appropriately and followed his training, Dutton said the officer’s use of the taser was not safe.

Dutton said Piskura was struck in the chest, meaning the odds of fatality in this instance dramatically increased.

“As of one week ago Taser International has changed their training protocol,” she said.

Peter Holran, vice president for Taser International, cited a 2009 study completed by William Bozeman of Wake Forest University that found of 1,201 selected occasions when a police officer used taser weapons, only three reported major injury.

“No matter how you handle someone trying to restrain someone else, bad things can happen,” City Councilor Richard Keebler said.

“Our plan right now is to take many of the comments and make some further improvements to our policy,” City Manager Doug Elliott said. “Then we’ll have to see if council is simply okay with us approving it or if it’s something that they’d want us to bring forward in an ordinance.”

Until then, the OPD will continue to enforce the laws in Oxford by reverting to the methods used prior to the use of tasers – such as physical force.

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