Municipal officials in Sitka were briefed about the repeated tasering of a teen in police custody, shortly after the incident occurred in September of last year.
In a press conference Tuesday morning (11-3-15), Sitka’s administrator and police chief said that the use of force against the 18-year-old conformed to police department policies, even though it wasn’t the only alternative available to the officers at the time — and both told about their own experience being tased earlier in the day.
Sitka police chief Sheldon Schmitt (l), community planning director Maegan Bosak, and administrator Mark Gorman discuss the Hoogandorn case with reporters Tuesday (11-3-15). Schmitt says that police use tasers rarely — less than once per month — in Sitka. (KCAW photo/Emily Kwong)
Any use of force above routine handcuffing in the Sitka Police Department is subject to review. When 18-year old Franklin Hoogendorn was arrested on multiple charges of disorderly conduct and underage drinking last year, and subsequently stripped and tased in his jail cell by three Sitka police officers, the incident made it to the administrator’s desk.
“Chief Schmitt informed me of this event shortly after it happened 14 months ago. He assured me that protocols were followed. It was investigated, and corrective actions were taken. So this was not new to city hall.”
In the video, Hoogendorn is physically stripped by the Sitka jailer and two officers. He’s forced to his knees, and then on to his belly, with his hands and feet restrained from behind. Schmitt says that most people brought into custody aren’t handled this way. They’re allowed to step behind a screen and remove their clothing. After a search, they put on a jump suit.
Hoogendorn is repeatedly tased in the video, and left motionless, face-down on a plastic mat, wearing only his underwear.
Schmitt says that Hoogendorn was not being punished. He was being forced to comply with the officers.