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Miami-Dade police revise Taser policy

Miami-Dade County police thinking of using a stun gun to subdue someone must consider the target's age, size and the physical threat posed to the officer, under a revised policy revealed Thursday.

The policy was revised after the department came under heavy criticism for using Tasers on a troubled 6-year-old in a school office and a truant 12-year-old running from an officer.

Under the new policy, an officer's response must depend on factors such as age, size, weight, the target's likelihood of physically harming himself or others, the ability to physically challenge the officer and the overall seriousness of the situation.

A school resource officer stunned a 6-year-old boy on Oct. 20 after he cut himself twice with a shard of glass and threatened to cut himself further. Police said use of the stun gun was justified to end the threat of the boy to himself.

On Nov. 5, a 12-year-old girl was shot with a stun gun while fleeing officers, allegedly while drunk and skipping school. Police said use of the stun gun in that instance went outside department policy.

The previous policy had one rule: Taser use was allowed if there was increasing physical resistance and verbal threats in either an in-custody situation or situation where a person is facing arrest.

The revised policy has detailed examples of when to use the stun guns.

Use is justified to "prevent a continuing escalating subject resistance or violence or to minimize injury" to the officer and subject.

Threatening body and verbal language, such as a "boxer stance, circling the officer," are also reasons for using the gun.

Stunning a fleeing subject is allowed if there is "behavior that would cause harm to themselves or others and who has the apparent ability to carry out those intentions," the new policy says.

The revisions also say officers must not use the Taser if the environment could cause injury to the subject _ for example, if he or she is standing next to a body of water or near stairs.

Taser use is also allowed if "lesser force options are ineffective," the policy said.

A Miami-Dade grand jury this week recommended expanded use of Taser stun guns by police in crisis situations involving mentally ill people as a safe alternatives to guns.

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