The State Bureau of Investigation is examining the claims of a Polk County woman that police tasered her 16 times while she was handcuffed to a chair, according to a report from WLOS.
Allison Howard, arrested last October in a fracas at a Tryon bar, admitted that she kicked (accidentally, by her account) a police officer and broke the window of a police car. She asserts that after being tasered at the scene of the crime, a Tryon Police Department officer and two former Polk County Sheriff’s deputies handcuffed her to a chair in the Polk County jail and tasered her 16 additional times. Howard is currently serving a year probation after pleading guilty to assaulting an officer.
The use of Tasers has been controversial throughout North Carolina, including in Asheville. In 2005, Asheville resident Kyle Ann Ross was wrongfully arrested by the Asheville Police Department and tasered three times. The APD later officially apologized to Ross, wrote her a check for damages and fired the officer who had tasered her.
Last April, a report by the Taser Safety Project, formed by groups including the NAACP, the ACLU and the Mental Health Association, called for stricter guidelines on Tasers. The report noted that many counties don’t restrict taser usage around flammable materials or on pregnant women, children, the elderly, passive resisters or handcuffed suspects and found that, in certain circumstances, the powerful electric stun devices can kill.
Buncombe County prohibits Taser usage on pregnant women, near flammable materials or on subjects in high places. It restricts usage on handcuffed suspects, but not on the elderly, the young, the disabled or passive resisters. Polk County, at the time of the report, had no restrictions on Tasers.
APD Chief Bill Hogan and Sheriff Van Duncan have asserted publicly that Tasers are both safe and can help save lives.
— David Forbes, staff writer