Meadville Tribune: Meadville cop involved in Tasering to retire

Its time for Tasers to the shelved, check out this article about a cop that just filed for retirement. — Submission Blanca Bosquez

A lethal "non-lethal" weapon.

MEADVILLE — The Meadville police officer who fired a Taser that took out a resident’s eye has filed for retirement.

Sgt. Glen Peterson, a 32-year veteran of the Meadville police force, has declined to speak to the media. City officials say that while the Aug. 23 Taser incident did weigh on Peterson, it was not the primary reason he decided to retire.

Peterson announced his intentions in a brief note to Police Chief David Stefanucci. It reads: “On this date, Nov. 11, 2011, I will be submitting my retirement from the Meadville City Police Department. My last actual work day will be Nov. 10, 2011, at 1800 hours. I will be using my accumulated sick time as pay up to the Jan. 2, 2012, final employment date. I ask for my pension to include all my contract and health benefits.”

Peterson “was a very good officer,” said Stefanucci, who pointed out that Peterson had served as an instructor to other officers. “He volunteered for a lot of extra duties and he was very proud. He was a sergeant most of his career,” said Stefanucci. “He has nothing but a file full of commendations.”

Peterson had started investigating his retirement options more than a year ago, according to the city’s attorney, Gary Alizzeo, but Peterson chose to put off retirement for a variety of reasons Alizzeo declined to share, describing them as personal.

While Alizzeo said Peterson “feels terrible” about the outcome of the Tasering, and that the incident weighs on Peterson, Alizzeo said the Tasering is not the primary reason for Peterson’s retirement.

City Manager Joe Chriest pointed out that by remaining on the force until 2012, Peterson’s pension will be based a salary that is scheduled by union contract to increase Jan. 1, 2012. The police union had agreed to go without a scheduled wage increase in 2011 as the city struggled to make ends meet in the depth of the recession.

Prior to filing for retirement, Peterson took part in a mandatory hearing regarding the Taser incident, according to Stefanucci. The hearing was part of an effort to determine two things: if Peterson followed the department’s use of force policy in deploying the Taser; and if Peterson deployed the Taser properly. The department’s own independent investigation and the results of that hearing showed that Peterson followed the department’s use of force policy in deploying the Taser, Stefanucci said.

The department has yet to determine if Peterson deployed the Taser properly, and, with Peterson retiring, “now it doesn’t matter” in terms of any discipline Peterson may have faced, Stefanucci said.

Stefanucci said Peterson made statements after the incident that he fired the Taser at Michael Mondo’s “low center mass,” not his head. Meadville police policy specifically indicates officers should avoid head shots with Tasers. The Taser, which takes a video when deployed, was sent to its manufacturer for an examination to determine if the video shows where the Taser’s laser pointer was aimed when it was fired. However, technicians from Taser International were not able to see the laser pointer in the video, and they suggested that either the laser pointer was not on or that it was too sunny at the time of the incident — about 6:15 p.m. in late August —  for the laser to be picked up by the video camera. Stefanucci has said that Meadville police Tasers are configured so that the laser pointer comes on automatically.

Stefanucci also revealed that Peterson chose to use the Taser after Mondo refused a command to stop moving at least twice and that Mondo was moving in the video taken by the Taser. Police had been called to the scene because Mondo was allegedly creating a disturbance and police had been warned in advance by medical authorities that Mondo was having mental issues. Mondo denies that he was having mental problems and, while his memory of the incident is sketchy, he says he does not believe he was doing anything that warranted being Tasered. Based on the evidence he’s seen, Stefanucci believes the incident was “an unfortunate accident.”

Pat Bywater can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at Tribune reporter Mary Spicer assisted with this story.

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