Kitsap Sheriff’s Office will modify its Taser policy

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is planning to update its Taser policy, but only minimally.

The policy was first implemented in January 2001 and will be updated for “relevancy to patrol operations and use of force policy,” according to Deputy Scott Wilson, department spokesman.

One of the policies currently being followed is that deputies should refrain from using a Taser on young children, the elderly, the infirm and pregnant women in nearly all circumstances.

“This is now being verbalized by sergeants to the patrol deputies,” Wilson said.

He said the the policy is being updated because it’s been four years since it was first introduced.

Recently the Seattle Police Department restricted its use of Tasers on the vulnerable while stipulating a supervisor also must be contacted when a Taser is used on a person more than three times.

“We’re (making) major changes like Seattle (Police Department) or because of (the) Rosentangle (claim),” Wilson said. “Everything will pretty much stay the same.”

On March 8, former Kitsap County resident Holly Rosentangle filed a $2 million claim against the county, alleging her husband, Curt Rosentangle, died from a negligently used Taser gun after a struggle with Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies on Feb. 21, 2004.

Deputies were called to the Ridgetop Apartment complex that night when Curt Rosentangle was reported by residents to be acting irrationally, running up and down halls, smashing porch lights and trying to force his way into apartments.

He refused to calm down when confronted by the deputy and became aggressive.

The deputy used her Taser stun gun on him twice, with no apparent effect and the two began to struggle.

Another deputy and sergeant arrived and helped secure Rosentangle. Shortly thereafter he stopped breathing.

Rosentangle was pronounced dead a short time later at Harrison Hospital.

The Kitsap County Coroner’s report said Rosentangle had died of “excited delirium with cardiac arrhythmia” due to “acute cocaine intoxication.”

The Taser was ruled out as a factor in his death.

“The Taser has never been the cause of a death, despite what critics say,” Wilson said. “There’s no movement to take the Taser out of service.”

Taser International insists Tasers are a safer, more effective use-of-force alternative.

According to KCSO policy, the Taser falls within the same category as pepper spray, which is Level 1, or minimal use of force. The KCSO 2001 Air Taser policy states, “The decision to use the Air Taser is the same decision to use OC Spray (pepper spray) or a baton: It depends on the actions and the critical distance of the threat. Therefore, a deputy does not have to get dangerously close to a threat to try chemical agents before resorting to the Air Taser.”

In 2001, there were 18 incidents in which Kitsap deputies used or showed their Taser. There were 20 situations in 2002, 39 in 2003 and in 2004 a Taser was used or shown 44 times.

Wilson attributes the increase in the number of times a Taser was used or shown to the increase in the number of Tasers purchased by the department and says as years go buy more are purchased.

Currently, Kitsap deputies use the Advanced Taser M26 model, but soon will be getting an advanced model, the X26, which is smaller and easier and lighter to carry.

“(The Taser) has averted the use of deadly force a number of times,” Wilson said.

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