Official: Tasering discipline fitting

Posted March 24, 2009, at 7:11 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — A police sergeant’s Tasering of a rookie officer in April 2008 — apparently as part of a prank that drew the ire of an anonymous letter writer — was “outrageous and indefensible” but did not warrant criminal charges, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said Tuesday.

“The Town of Millinocket does not condone, defend or countenance such activities. The actions of the sergeant in this matter were dealt with in a timely, thorough manner and the disciplinary consequences administered were appropriate for the situation,” Conlogue said in a statement co-written by Police Chief Donald Bolduc.

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The Taser-wielding officer drew a one-day suspension without pay and a letter of reprimand just after it happened, but the issue became public, and was investigated by Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, when the letter was sent to several media outlets last month.

The Tasered officer was not severely injured. Almy identified the officers, but the Bangor Daily News is not naming them because no one was charged.

Conlogue’s statement expresses town displeasure with the incident, corrects a few minor errors made by the letter-writer, and defends Bolduc against criticism that the sergeant deserved to be arrested.

Conlogue said the incident began when the sergeant asked the officer, a rookie, to “retrieve the probe end of a Taser that had been test-fired into a nearby wastebasket because of a question about possible damage to the item’s protective cover.”

“When the officer picked up the probe, the sergeant subjected him to a quick jolt that caused a temporary sensation in the officer’s hand,” Conlogue added. “The officer was not ‘shot’ with the device and was uninjured. No other officers were present or involved during the incident.”

In his review, Almy said the most likely applicable charge was criminal use of an electronic weapon, a Class D misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $2,000. But Almy decided no charges were warranted after reviewing Bolduc’s paperwork.

“As outrageous and indefensible as the incident was, discipline must be proportional and appropriate to the actual circumstances and be based on facts, not emotions,” Conlogue wrote, saying the incident was appropriately categorized as a disciplinary matter.

A Taser, or stun gun, is intended to be a defensive weapon police use to protect themselves or restrain others. It employs electrical current to produce neuromuscular incapacitation or powerful muscle contractions to subdue suspects.

According to an Amnesty International report issued in December, 334 people shocked with Tasers by law enforcement officers died in the United States between June 2001 and August 2008. Other organizations dispute those figures and the assumption that the jolt Tasers supply can cause fatalities.

Postmarked Feb. 13, the anonymous letter was addressed to “Attorney General MacMaster,” a possible reference to Brian MacMaster, head of investigations for the Maine Attorney General’s Office. It has carbon-copy listings for John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and three newspaper reporters.

When contacted by Bolduc when the chief became aware of the letter, the Attorney General’s Office referred the matter to Almy’s office.

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