National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy

Holding Law Enforcement Accountable:
Disability, Excessive Force and the Law

Ed Paquin, Robert Appel, J.D. and David McGuire, J.D.

Under what circumstances can law enforcement lawfully use force? What constitutes excessive force? What are the remedies?  Are people with psychiatric or cognitive disabilities more likely to be subjected to excessive force? How "less lethal" are electronic control devices a/k/a Tasers and pepper spray? How can law enforcement be held accountable for excessive force? How can we as citizens reduce the frequency in which officers use force to accomplish legitimate law enforcement objectives?  Are there alternative approaches that attempt to minimize use of force? How can people, especially those with disabilities, decrease the chances of force being used during an encounter with law enforcement? 

The workshop panelists will answer these and other questions, with examples from incidents, lawsuits, and legislative initiatives in their respective states, Vermont and Connecticut.  The panelists will lay out a continuum of responses to this vexing problem.

Ed Paquin, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Vermont f/k/a Vermont Protection and Advocacy  Ed will discuss efforts in Vermont to pursuing statutory reforms approaches, including a bill on Tasers presently pending in the Vermont House, the Vermont State Police adopting a policy about not Tasing people with obvious disabilities that resolved a public accommodations complaint filed with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, law enforcement training in Vermont for engaging persons in mental health crises, partnering with mental health crisis interventionists, etc. 

Robert Appel, Private Attorney, former Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission and  former Chief Public Defender.  Robert will discuss various means to hold officers fully accountable for their actions to include administrative complaint processes, the recent indictment of a municipal police officer by a state grand jury for shooting (and wounding) a man who was obviously in a mental health crisis and the role of civil litigation in the spectrum of accountability. 

David McGuire, Staff Attorney, Connecticut Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union   David will address several legislative initiatives that his organization has advocated for the past two sessions.  These bills focus on requiring training (including vulnerable populations and against whom not to deploy a Taser) and reporting. He will also speak about some direct advocacy and relationships (some good, some bad) that he has developed with law enforcement around Taser use.  David will also present on the power of civil rights actions (Tasers and beyond), including outlining some of the elements needed to successful bring policy reforming 1983 suits. 

Link to brief presenter bios:

Robert Appel, J.D.

David McGuire, J.D.

Ed Paquin