After three police related deaths where a Taser was administered by officers from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department since 2008, a grand jury in San Bernardino convened to look at the department's Taser policy and produce a report which was released June 28. One of the deaths mentioned in the report was Allen Kephart of Arrowhead, Calif., who suffered 16 Taser exposures by officers during a traffic stop in May 2011 because, "Some deputies believed their tasers were not working."
Kephart is not named directly in the report but the jury's foreman, E.H. Burgnon confirmed to Reason.com that the jury was refering to his death.
The grand jury offered several recommendations to the department who reviewed manuals and training materials used by the department, including making sure officers know if a Taser is working properly so suspects are not subjected to repeated exposures and requiring senior officers to keep track of the amount of exposures to one person. The report was generally concerned that officers didn't know how to use the devices properly. From the report:
In the TP manual, there were 13 cautionary references to avoid repeated, multiple, prolonged, continuous, or simultaneous ECD [Electronic Control Device] exposures. In fact, in the case of the SBCSD TTA manual, there was no information in this policy dealing with how many times a person can safely be tasered. This is discretionary, and each officer makes the decision.
The department disagreed with the recommendations in its response filed August 20, saying that they already had procedures that addressed the concerns raised. In response to the grand jury's recommendation that the department needed to formulate training to address the problem of knowing when the Taser is working properly to avoid repeated exposures the department said:
Deputies are trained to transition to alternative force options once the Taser deployment is deemed ineffective. Many deputies voluntarily receive full taser charges to gain first-hand knoledge of the physiological effects. This training is designed to provide recognition of proper operation, thereby minimizing repeat and prolonged use.
A lawsuit was filed by the Kephart family against the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. That suit was settled in June 2013.
Reason TV covered Kephart's death as details were emerging in The Killing of Allen Kephart: How the Police Lost the Trust of a Law-and-Order Town. And for more on Tasers, check out, Who's Lethal? Police or Tasers.