The United States announced today that the Orange County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) has successfully implemented an agreement on the use of electronic control weapons, commonly referred to as Tasers. Significantly, data OCSO provided to the department demonstrates a marked decrease in the use of Tasers under Sheriff Jerry Demings’ tenure while implementing the department’s agreement. OCSO’s data also demonstrated an overall decrease in uses of force during the same period.
In 2010, the department and OCSO entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to ensure OCSO’s constitutional use of Tasers. The agreement set forth standards for Taser policies, training and reviews of Taser use. The department found that OCSO came into substantial compliance with the agreement in October 2011, and OCSO has maintained that compliance level for 18 months as required by the agreement.
“The successful resolution of our agreement with OCSO demonstrates that effective policing and constitutional policing go hand in hand. OCSO has heightened its standards on Taser use, reduced the use of Tasers, and also reduced its overall use of force, all while providing effective policing to the people of Orange County,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are confident that OCSO has the systems in place to ensure constitutional use of Tasers going forward.”
In 2007, the department initiated an investigation of OCSO’s Taser use pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The department issued a technical assistance letter to OCSO in August 2008 describing policies, training and accountability mechanisms necessary to ensure the constitutional use of Tasers.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of federally-protected rights. The act also allows the Justice Department to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation. The Justice Department has conducted similar investigations and has obtained important reforms in police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country.
The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida jointly conducted this investigation.