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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 4, 2011
Justice Department Settles with Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Over Use of Tasers in County Jails

WASHINGTON– A settlement agreement has been reached with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus, Ohio, over the use of Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs), or electrically charged weapons commonly referred to by the brand name "TASER," in its two jails, the Franklin County Corrections Centers, the Department of Justice announced today. The settlement was filed as a joint motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

On Nov. 3, 2010, the United States filed a motion to intervene in a case alleging that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office engaged in a policy and practice of excessive and abusive use of CEDs against detainees and inmates. The case, which is represented by the Ohio Legal Rights Service, Ohio’s protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities, includes "all persons who . . . are or will be placed in the custody of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at the Franklin County Corrections Centers." The United States moved to join in the case under the provision of to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and filed its own complaint to ensure the uniform national interpretation and application of civil rights laws pertaining to excessive force by law enforcement, an area in which the Justice Department has special expertise. The district court granted the United States’ motion to join the matter on Dec. 14, 2010.

The court-enforceable agreement not only establishes significant safeguards against the abusive use of CEDs against detainees and inmates, but also ensures that those who disobey deputies’ orders in a non-violent manner will not be stunned by the electrically charged weapons.  The agreement also requires changes to the suicide risk-assessment policies that will restrict the practice of electrically stunning individuals who show resistance to being forcibly changed into suicide safety gowns.

"The important public safety role that law enforcement agencies play does not excuse them from the responsibility to uphold the civil rights of all individuals," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  "We commend the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for acknowledging its responsibility to uphold the constitutional rights of persons in its custody.  Today’s agreement will go a long way towards increasing public confidence in the sheriff’s office and protecting the rule of law."

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 authorizes the Department of Justice to file lawsuits seeking court orders to reform law enforcement offices that are engaging in a pattern or practice of violating citizens’ federal constitutional and civil rights. Please visit www.justice.gov/crt to learn more about this Act and other laws enforced by the department’s Civil Rights Division.

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