Some Texas officers want to apologize for TASER incident

By Tony Plohetski
The Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas Several Austin police officers want to apologize to the man who was shocked by another officer's Taser on Thanksgiving.

The group includes at least two board members of the Austin Police Association, which in recent years has been criticized by some community groups that say it too quickly defends officers accused of wrongdoing.

"If one person spreads the word that this is how he was treated and got no apology, it is just an infection that would spread," said Matt Greer , who represents the detective rank on the union board.

New Police Chief Art Acevedo posted on an internal Web site Saturday evening a video in which Cpl. Thomas O'Connor used his Taser on Eugene Snelling , 32 , after stopping him along MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) on Thanksgiving Day 2006 for going 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.

The video shows O'Connor using a tone that he would later call "very direct" to ask for Snelling's license and proof of insurance and Snelling shouting "whoa! whoa! whoa!" at the officer's demeanor. O'Connor is heard shouting "No! Not 'whoa, whoa, whoa!'" and is then seen drawing his Taser and ordering Snelling out of the car. He fired seconds later.

Acevedo said he will use the video to help train officers about how to better perform such stops to prevent similar incidents.

Police association Vice President Wuthipong "Tank" Tantaksinanukij said he wants to tell Snelling that "this is an unfortunate incident, and I'm sorry you went through it."

He said he also wants Snelling to know that the department includes professional, courteous officers.

The officers said they want to meet with Snelling as individual officers, not as representatives of the department or union.

Acevedo said Monday that he is heartened that officers viewing the video understand the corporal's mistakes.

"The officers who are seeing it get it," Acevedo said at a media briefing Monday. "Let's face it: The majority of the cops are good officers. People just need to be told what the expectations are and will rise to them."

Acevedo also praised the Austin Police Association, which represents nearly all of the city's 1,450 officers, for supporting his effort to use the video for training.

Union President George Vanderhule said association representatives also have in recent weeks been reviewing how much it would cost the department to add more modern recording equipment to patrol cars, which would help supervisors more easily review traffic stops, enhance the audio and watch the tapes in slow motion.

In the O'Connor case, Vanderhule said, "Everybody I've talked to watches the tape and says the same thing, and that's they felt like the officer erred " I've not heard any person yet say they thought the officer did well," he said.

Snelling said Monday that he "would not mind" meeting with the officers.

Copyright 2007 Austin American-Statesman

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