Dunn Street Tazing Incident Has Community Calling For Change

Oct 6, 2014

From Left to Right: Local Activist Anita Davis, Pastor Lee Johnson, and former Tallahassee Mayor Dot Inman Johnson discuss the recent tasing incident involving TPD.
Credit LHatter / WFSU News

Local activists say they want to see changes in the policing practices of the Tallahassee Police Department. TPD is once again under fire for its use of force after a video shows officers tazing a woman who was walking away from them.

Many residents of Tallahassee’s Frenchtown neighborhood have a low opinion of the Tallahassee Police Department. They say they’re harassed for no reason. Troy Zander Sr., a Frenchtown resident, says he was stopped at three in the morning while walking to McDonalds last year by an officer demanding to know where he was going:

"He told me, 'the only people that are out at 3 a.m. are prostitutes, drug dealers and crackheads'. So I said, 'which one are you?'"

Zanders says he was charged with failure to use sidewalks. Stories like his are the norm in a part of Tallahassee that has suffered with blight and high-unemployment. A week ago, Tallahassee Police Officers stunned and arrested 61-year-old Viola Young and three other people on Dunn Street, in the Frenchtown neighborhood. According to the Tallahassee Police department, officers were in the area due to reports of drug sales. Officers detained three individuals when Young approached police inquiring about one of the people arrested. An officer advised her to stay back and a second officer approached Young and attempted to place her under arrest. Young turned away, and Mahan stunned her with a taser in the back. The event was captured on video by a neighbor.

“The investigation will determine not only whether the officer’s actions were legal, but if those actions were consistent with the expectation I have for officers, and that we treat members of our community with dignity and respect," said Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo during a press conference last week.  The officer who stunned Young, Officer Terry Mahan has been placed on paid administrative leave.

But in a press conference Monday, former Tallahassee Mayor Dot Inman Johnson says she feels something needs to change.

“This was a group of family members walking down the street and all the witnesses who saw the tazing and saw the arrest indicated that these people were doing nothing more than walking in a group down the street.”

Inman Johnson says she believes the city needs to create a citizens review committee to investigate use-of-force complaints against the Tallahassee police department. The city recently settled a lawsuit for $475,000 with Christina West who suffered bruises and broken bones during her 2013 DUI arrest. The city also settled a lawsuit with a man who was injured when officers mistakenly raided his home.

Two Tallahassee police officers were present at Monday’s press conference but forwarded all questions to TPD spokesman, Officer David Northway. Northway declined to answer questions about why the officers were there, saying he could not comment on ongoing investigations.

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