City councilors promise to change police policies after disabled man is tased and injured

The members of the Syracuse Common Council are promising to alter the Syracuse Police Department's "Use of Force" policy after a man with disabilities was tased and injured for refusing to sit down on a Centro bus.

Although councilors did not discuss the specifics of the May 3rd incident, the council's Public Safety Committee held a special hearing on the broader issue of how police use tasers in accordance with the department's policies and procedures.

Brad Hulett attended the hearing but did not speak. Hulett intends to sue the City of Syracuse after accusing two police officers of using excessive force when they tased him. Surveillance video shows Hulett refusing the officers' repeated commands to sit down even though the bus accommodates standing passengers. Hulett is seen being tased and physically dragged off the bus. Once outside, one of the officers is seen dragging Hulett away by one leg. Hulett suffered a broken hip during the incident.

An internal review of the incident found that the officersâ?? use of the taser was in accordance with the department's Use of Force policy.

At Monday's Public Safety Committee meeting, the head of the Syracuse Citizen's Review Board, which investigates complaints against police, said "our policy is not specific."

Joseph Lipari produced a copy of the Use of Force policy which the Las Vegas Police Department formulated in cooperation with the Department of Justice. Under that policy, it would appear that the use of a taser on Hulett would have been uncalled for because he was neither passively nor actively resisting the officers, and because he was obviously disabled. Hulett suffered a severe brain injury after being hit by a train as a child.

Police Chief Frank Fowler declined an invitation to attend the hearing because of the pending lawsuit, but in a written response said, "We feel the existing policy on tasers is a good one."

Councilor Lance Denno said, "What we have is a boycott by the administration of this meeting."

Councilor Khalid Bey stated that "almost anyone can become a victim of physical force for any reason." He added, "We need to disrupt a culture here. We employ people not to make them scared and hurt them."

The Syracuse representative of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Barrie Gewanter, said the police department classifies tasers as a "less lethal weapon" and pointed out that people have died after being tased.

The President of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association, Jeffrey Piedmonte, told the councilors that he found some of the comments "insulting." Piedmonte pointed out that police officers are well trained on the use of tasers as it relates to the "escalating use of force." He said if a person complies with a police officer, he won't be tased.

Disabled advocate Agnes McCrea said, "We can all be Brad Hulett at any time."

Sally Johnston of Disabled In Action told councilors that Hulett did nothing wrong and did not deserved to be tased and dragged off the bus.

After the hearing, Brad Hulett was asked about the absence of Police Chief Frank Fowler or other representative of the department. "They donâ??t have an excuse for what they did on that bus, so they don't want to make any incriminating statements," he said.

According to Public Safety Committee Chair, Jake Barrett, Chief Fowler has invited the councilors to meet with him privately and promised to show the entire surveillance video.

Hullett's attorney Rick Guy told reporters, "The entire video shows nothing more or less than what the content of the video already is... an abuse of my client."

Read the Syracuse Police Use of Force Policy

Read the Syracuse Police Less Lethal Policy

Read the Las Vegas Use of Force Policy â?? Part 1 â?? Part 2