Who are Conn. cops most likely to stun with a Taser? Minorities, data show.

Adding to the sting, recent data shows serious racial disparities in stun gun usage by Connecticut police officers. 

David Brewster/Star Tribune/AP
Minneapolis Sgt. Ron Bellendier shows the business end of a Taser stun gun, Oct. 4, 2004, in Minneapolis.

Connecticut officers fired stun guns at Hispanic and black suspects at a higher rate than their white counterparts, an Associated Press investigation found. And for the white suspects who were stunned, they were far more likely to get a warning before firing.

The AP published these alarming statistics this week and researchers at Central Connecticut State University expect to publish an extensive report for state officials before the end of February.  

Connecticut police officers reported 641 stun gun incidents in 2015, including 437 firings and 204 threats, AP found.

In the overall 641 incidents, officers chose to fire their stun guns 80 percent of the time when the offender was black, 69 percent of the time when the offender was Hispanic, and 60 percent of the time when the offender was white. 

But in the 204 occasions where officers threatened to use a stun gun but chose not to fire, 61 percent of the offenders were white, 19 percent were black, and 20 percent were Hispanic. 

“It seems like in the cases where it was threatened but not used, there were far more white people involved,” Michael Lawlor, state undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, told AP. “Why that is and whether there is some other explanation, we’re going to go through the data and try to figure it out.” 

This data is available because Connecticut has the toughest stun gun laws in the country. In 2014, Connecticut became the first state to require all officers to track and report all usage of stun guns. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the legislation into law after the state witnessed high numbers of Taser-related deaths. 

Since 2005, 17 people in Connecticut have died after being tased by police, with all but five of the victims being minorities. 

“I think this data will be helpful for policy makers and police chiefs in Connecticut to get a handle on the issue,” David McGuire, legislative and policy director for the Connecticut ACLU, told AP. He added that the statistics were “alarming.” 

But some officers say Taser usage has nothing to do with race. 

“The officers don’t pick and choose who’s going to resist arrest or flee,” Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik told AP. All 177 police officers in his department carry stun guns. “Tasers have proven to be a less lethal method that avoids injury to the officer and the suspect. Serious injuries to suspects have dropped dramatically since the Taser became a tool.”

In Connecticut’s 2014 annual crime report, almost all offenses had a higher proportion of white offenders than any other demographic. 

Of the 204 rapes that were reported in 2014, 142 of the offenders were white and only 52 were black. For the 2,550 cases of aggravated assault, 1,452 of the offenders were white and only 1,055 of the offenders were black. For both burglary and larceny, there was more than three times the amount of white offenders than black offenders. 

Hispanics were not included in the breakdown of demographics because federal policy defines “Hispanic” as an ethnicity, not as a race

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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