Lancaster mayor: Officer won’t be fired, suspended for Taser incident

Lancaster

A Lancaster police officer will not be fired or suspended for using a Taser on a man as he sat on a sidewalk last week.

Mayor Danene Sorace said the Bureau of Police is still finalizing an internal review, but it has become clear the officer violated no department policies in his use of force against Sean Williams.

“The preliminary findings of the investigation are that his actions complied with the city’s current use of force and Taser policies, which authorizes use in various situations, including a failure to respond to multiple verbal commands,” Sorace said at a news conference Friday.

Sorace said a revision of the department’s use of force policy was already underway before the June 28 incident in the first block of South Prince Street. She said under the latest draft of the new policy, officers may no longer use a Taser just because someone is refusing commands.

“The new use of force policy increases the threshold, meaning an officer will only be able to use a Taser when faced with direct physical confrontation,” she said.

Sorace added that every Lancaster police officer will be equipped with a body camera in 2019. A pilot program to equip some officers with body cameras will begin this year.

Police encountered Williams after responding to a call of a man chasing people with a bat. They said Williams repeatedly refused their orders to sit down and straighten his legs in front of him with ankles crossed.

Refusing those orders, police say, is a sign that someone is preparing to fight or flee officers.

When Williams failed to straighten his legs, the Taser was used to take him into custody.

No bat was found, but witnesses told police that Williams had tried to stop a woman from entering an apartment and wanted to fight people who helped her.

Williams, 27, has filed a lawsuit against the police officer. In the suit, Williams claims he was racially profiled and the officer used excessive force. He is seeking $75,000 in damages.

After a video of the incident went viral on social media, several groups rallied in protest at the Lancaster County Courthouse. The incident also thrust Lancaster to the forefront of the national debate on police use of force.

“I am sorry for the hurt, pain, and turmoil this incident has caused for all involved,” Sorace said.

“Ultimately, I fear that my words here today are insufficient, but long after the national cameras have moved on, long after this moment is over, this community will still be here, we will still be here, and that gives me hope.”

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