Police Brutality in Vermont? The Buzzing Taser Controversy in Brattleboro!
Total Injury has previously detailed allegations of police brutality in Chicago personal injury lawsuits, and now comes questions about the use of Tasers on non-violent protesters following a recent incident in Brattleboro, Vermont, of all places.
Specifically, the Brattleboro Police Department has come under fire after two volunteer gardeners were stunned by Tasers after refusing to leave private property that they were trespassing on.
A Brattleboro Reformer story recapped the controversial incident. Jonathan "Slug" Crowell and Samantha Kilmurray were among a group of people that was planting shrubs, flowers and a tree on a vacant property owned by Jim Robertson and his family.
The Robertsons twice asked the Brattleboro PD to remove the protesters from the property that is likely going to be extended for a nearby gas station. The police responded, and that's when things allegedly got out of hand.
Crowell and Kilmurray have said that they nonviolently refused to move from the property and held onto a barrel on the ground to hold their place. They then alleged that the officers tried to intimidate them into moving by waving the Tasers in the air.
Kilmurray was eventually shocked twice before agreeing to let go of the barrel while Crowell was shocked at least five times. All of this happened under the watchful eye of Peter Hawkins, who filmed the use of the Tasers.
Crowell, Kilmurray and a host of Brattleboro residents questioned the excessive use of Tasers in this case in the Brattleboro Reformer story. Crowell expressed his surprise that the officers used the Tasers considering that he and Kilmurray were not threatening them. Kilmurray remarked in the story that the police would have been better served to take their water to get them to move off the property. Brattleboro resident Gary Benjamin wondered in the story why the Tasers were used when there was no threat to the officers or the public.
In response to this incident, Amnesty International USA has called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers. Amnesty spokesman Joshua Rubenstein described the Taser use in this situation as being an "outrageous use of force," especially when considering that Crowell and Kilmurray were "practicing civil disobedience" without being violent or a threat to anyone else's welfare.
In the wake of such criticism and under its own rules following the use of force by police officers, the Brattleboro PD is reviewing its Taser policy and the situation involving Crowell and Kilmurray. Chief John Martin said that dealing with protesters was "somewhat new to the officers," who were not named in the story.
The story also detailed that the town's police department uses a "continuum of force" graph to educate and inform officers of how to get people to obey them. The story noted that the continuum includes information pertaining to not only Tasers but also officer presence, dialogue, physical force, chemicals, impact weapons and munitions like beanbag guns.
Martin was quoted in the story as calling Tasers "noninjurious, though certainly painful"; something that Kilmurray and Crowell can attest to after this controversial incident.
There has been no word whether Kilmurray and Crowell will file a personal injury lawsuit alleging police brutality.