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Iowa panel OKs bill requiring stun gun training

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 11:11 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa law enforcement officers would be required to complete standardized training before being outfitted with stun guns under a bill approved by a legislative panel Monday.

A three-member subcommittee unanimously approved the bill, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the proposal Tuesday.

The state doesn’t now have standardized training for stun guns. The bill would order the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy to establish rules for using the devices and to design a safety course that addresses when it’s appropriate to use stun guns. It would also require annual review of stun gun use by law enforcement agencies.

Officers would need to complete training before using the weapons.

Sen. Thomas Courtney, D-Burlington, who chairs the subcommittee, said such training would ensure all law enforcement officers are on the same page.

Hundreds of Iowa law enforcement agencies use stun guns and several cases have led to accusations that officers misused the devices.

Lawmakers began looking into the issue after a series of stories by The Des Moines Register, including an examination of a stun gun use against a woman with a mental disorder in the Muscatine County jail. The sheriff has maintained officers did nothing wrong.

Courtney said he wants to avoid such situations in the future.

“We need to deal with this,” he said. “We need to have standardized training so that doesn’t happen again.”

Lobbyists expressed their support for the bill, agreeing with lawmakers that standardization is crucial to carry out effective law enforcement.

Agencies now rely on manufacturers for limited training, and no follow-up training is required.

“We welcome some standardization and consistency, which I think this bill will bring,” said Susan Cameron, a lobbyist with the State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association.

Courtney said he expects bipartisan support for the bill.

“I think it’s the kind of bill that will move quickly through this chamber and the other,” he said.

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