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National Park Service Declines to Release Report on Taser Use, Drops Charges on Dog Walker

Congresswoman Jackie Speier presses the National Park Service to be more transparent about its Taser usage policy and to release investigative report on dog walker Taser incident last January.

Nearly six months later — after requesting information from the National Park Service (NPS) about its Taser usage policy and the results of an investigation concerning a Montara man who was stunned with a Taser by a ranger in the Rancho Corral de Tierra property for walking dogs off-leash — Congresswoman Jackie Speier has received a reply from the NPS, declining to release the details she's asking for.

The investigative report on the Taser incident that Speier is inquiring about is being held confidential under federal law, although it was intially to be released to the public after it was completed in April.

“The National Park Service has been dragging its feet since the investigation was completed on April 25th and has not been transparent and forthright with the public,” writes Speier in a press release issued yesterday. “First, I was told that the Privacy Act of 1974 prevents disclosure of the facts, then I was informed that a potential prosecution of the Tasing victim kept even the most basic details from being released.”

In the press release, Speier also makes known that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) has dropped charges against the Montara dog walker Gary Hesterberg and has exonerated its ranger Sara Cavallaro.

Still, this “eliminates any legal barriers that are standing in the way of NPS releasing a summarized version of the facts that would be in compliance with the Privacy Act,” she writes. “I’m deeply disappointed in how the NPS has handled the matter from start to finish. NPS owes it to the public to be up front and honest about the results of the investigation and its Taser usage policy moving forward.”

The Jan. 29, 2012, Taser incident sparked such a tumult of public backlash, Speier called into question the ranger’s actions. Critics denounced the use of a Taser, while NPS officals said the Taser use was justified.

Today, she’s urging NPS director Jonathan Jarvis to revise the policy so that Tasers will only be used in very limited circumstances, in line with the majority of law enforcement agencies.

“I understand that the GGNRA is planning a community meeting for Monday, Sept. 10 in the area near Rancho Corral de Tierra. I plan on attending and expect that GGNRA leadership will be prepared to hear from the community about this issue and appropriately respond to their concerns at that time,” she writes.

Speier has also contacted Superintendent Frank Dean, urging him to inform the public of the results of the investigation and legal constraints that prevented complete disclosure. In the interest of transparency, Speier is asking Dean to convene a public meeting to answer questions about the incident itself and offer clarification about the Taser usage policy.

“It needs to reassure park visitors that force will only be used when absolutely required on the rarest occasions when a person is actively resisting a law enforcement officer," writes Speier. "As it stands, the current NPS policy is overly broad, flawed and allows rangers far too much discretion as to when they can use tasers.”

According to the Half Moon Bay Review, a meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m., Sept. 6, at Farallone View Elementary School, 1100 LeConte Ave., Montara.

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Raymond Torres August 28, 2012 at 02:39 PM
this is a good article about the misuse of tasers
hutch August 28, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Oh God not this again. The dog walker ignored a lawful order of a peace officer to stay put. He was mouthing off while being detained because the officer was a woman. He showed no respect and deserved to be tasered. Try ignoring a CHP if he/she tells you not to move and you walk away. You're going to get tackled and your face shoved it concrete or possibly shot. Get over it.
Pacificat August 28, 2012 at 04:49 PM
This is not about whether the person deserved to be tasered. The NPS dropped the charges. This is a different issue. Rep. Speier is concerned about the NPS lack of transparency in the results of the investigation. Shouldn't we all be concerned about this? She also says the NPS policy on use of tasers is overly broad and allows rangers far too much discretion in their use of tasers. That's another issue worthy of investigation.
Jamie White (Editor) August 28, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Good point, Pacificat! A government agency such as the NPS should be transparent; otherwise it looks like it has something to hide. I applaud Jackie Speier for her follow-up on this important issue.
ted edwards August 28, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Hutch, this was such a serious offense that all charges were dropped.
Vince Chutney August 28, 2012 at 10:22 PM
"There’s no Use of Force handbook, as it were, that would set definitive rules for when using a stun gun is okay and when it is not...There is obviously an entire range of options available to them [the GGNRA rangers], lots of factors that go into making the decision...We’re reviewing the incident, there’re a variety of tools and processes and procedures they have available to them...Rangers also carry guns, pepper spray and clubs." -- Howard Levitt; GGNRA Spokesperson; Half Moon Bay Patch; January 31, 2012 Pacificat said "She [Rep. Speier] also says the NPS policy on use of tasers is overly broad and allows rangers far too much discretion in their use of tasers." Let's be absolutely clear on this: according to GGNRA spokesperson Howard Levitt, there is NO GGNRA official policy (written or otherwise) with respect to use of force; e.g., tasers, handguns, clubs, police dogs, etc. None. Nada. Zilch. Looks as though the GGNRA leaves it up to the discretion of the ranger - experienced or otherwise. Hard to imagine any law enforcement agency having absolutely NO policy whatsoever with respect to the usage of deadly weapons by its agents/officers/rangers. This is not the first white-washing of its ranger's behavior by the GGNRA. Hutch, you should apply for a job with the GGNRA. They are looking for people with your kind of attitude. Hard to find in these parts.
Bhatman August 28, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Of course, a simple Google of the question at hand come up with a 442pp NPS Law Enforcement manual (RM-9) that details the official policy. Levitt's statement is self evident. Like all law enforcement personnel, trained NPS Rangers use their judgement within general guidelines as to which tools to apply and when since common sense tells us that every possible scenario can not be scripted in a manual. Hutch, we are in agreement (I need a stiff drink).
Vince Chutney August 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Of course, back in the day, Hutch and Bhatman were the first to complain about police brutality when it suited their purpose, e.g., protesting the Vietnam War.
Vince Chutney August 29, 2012 at 01:04 AM
I knew our founding fathers were bright and prophetic, but who would have imagined they had the foresight to include a section about detaining people through the use of tasers way back when they drafted The Constitution of the United States. From today's SF Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Rep-Speier-rips-Park-Service-in-Taser-case-3822152.php) : "Some witnesses said Hesterberg had repeatedly asked why he was being detained, and could not get an answer. His attorney said [GGNRA ranger] Cavallaro would only cite "the Constitution" when asked what authority she had to hold him." So much for the "442pp NPS Law Enforcement manual (RM-9) that details the official policy" that Bhatman cites above.
Stacie Chan (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I find it sad that this issue has to escalate to an elected official before public information like this can be released to the public. Thanks to Jackie Speier for putting pressure on the NPS to release the details.
hutch August 29, 2012 at 09:37 PM
wholly crap!
hutch August 29, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Though I did protest the war, I was only 12.
hutch August 29, 2012 at 09:42 PM
If that park ranger was any of your daughters I'll bet you'd want her to do exactly what she did. Shame on Jackie Speier for criticizing a peace officer for political purposes.
Pacificat August 29, 2012 at 09:53 PM
If that park ranger was my daughter, I'd ask her what the hell happened. Then I'd expect the NPS to report the results of their investigation. Shame on the NPS for their lack of transparency.
Geo Kitta September 06, 2012 at 12:55 AM
This is not an isolated case - the NPS has much to cover up and is continually attempting do so. To a (hopefully) select few taxpayer paid state law enforcement employees, our parks are these places 'out there' removed from civilization and this group of over zealous military wannabe's feel free to come down on people as hard as they see fit regardless of their responsibility under the greater law. Just wait until all parks are privatized and real thugs (think Blackwater or whatever they go by now) are in their place. A vote for Romney will get you there quickest.

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