A police officer in Pierre, S.D., recently used an electroshock weapon against an 8-year-old girl who was threatening to kill herself. Now, Police Chief Bob Grandpre is defending the officer’s decision.
“He quite possibly saved the juvenile’s life that night,” said Grandpre of the unnamed officer, who remains on the job.
According to Grandpre, three officers responded Friday night to a report of a suicidal 8-year-old girl who had allegedly stabbed herself in the leg. She was holding a 4.5-inch knife to her chest when officers arrived and refused to put it down.
When one officer approached her, the girl turned the knife toward him. When he stopped, “she immediately put the knife back at her chest,” the chief said.
That’s when an officer deployed his Taser.
According to the Associated Press, the officer deployed the stun gun from 5 or 6 feet away, and the prongs hit the girl’s chest and stomach. Emergency personnel immediately arrived on the scene and took the girl to the hospital. She was released without injury after 24 hours.
Grandpre also noted that the girl had no stab wounds on her leg.
Parents of the child, who was at home with a babysitter at the time of the incident, said the officer should be disciplined for using excessive force.
“Tasers are for grown adults, not 8-year-old girls,” the child’s father, Bobby Jones, told the Argus Leader newspaper. “They say it was for her own safety, but there is no justification for that.”
The girl’s mother, Dawn Stenstrom, described the knife as “a little paring knife.”
Stenstrom added that her daughter has never gotten so out of control as to require physical restraint. The girl was not injured by the Taser, but “she was in pain the whole night,” according to her mother.
“How much harm could she have done?” Stenstrom asked.
The girl’s father said his daughter had merely “acted out ... Her acting out got her tased.”
Greg Connor, a professor and police consultant from Georgia who specializes in the use of force, was surprised to hear that officers had used an electroshock weapon on a child so young. He said a Taser is likely to cause less damage than other less-than-lethal weapons, but every situation is different.
“It’s hard to imagine a situation where you’d need to use a Taser on an 8-year-old,” Connor added.