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DOJ Intervenes in Ohio Jail Taser Class Action; County Settles

On February 4, 2011, Franklin County, Ohio officials agreed to substantially upgrade jail Taser training, use and accountability policies to settle a Class Action law suit in which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had intervened.

On July 16, 2010, past and present prisoners of Ohio’s Franklin County Correctional Center (FCCC) I & II, brought a federal class action lawsuit challenging “a pervasive practice” of “frequent and gratuitous use of Tasers to inflict pain, fear, corporal punishment and humiliation.”

The complaint alleges that “it is the custom, policy and standard operating practice” of guards “to repeatedly use their Tasers in a callous and sadistic manner.”

Guards “regularly use Tasers in situations where the person does not remotely present a threat of violent behavior or harm to self or others, and routinely and deliberately use Tasers as first-strike weapons without employing or even considering less painful or harmful control tactics,” according to the suit.

Contrary to the Jail’s written Taser policy and manufacturer warnings, guards routinely Taser mentally ill, medically unstable, restrained and pregnant individuals, according to the complaint.

Tasers are the favored response to the slightest objection or passive resistance by prisoners, and they are used to “soften up” prisoners to obtain submission and compliance, the Complaint alleges.

Guards routinely falsify incident reports to significantly exaggerate the Tased prisoner’s behavior as “combative,” or otherwise deserving of a force response, contrary to videotape evidence of the Tasing incidents. In virtually every case, FCCC officials deemed the Tasing to be “justified.”

Robert Shreve, Michael Reed, Dawn Fiore-Bruno and Michael Worley are past and present FCCC prisoners who were improperly Tased during their confinement. They sued the guards involved in their Tasings and policymaking defendants who “created a policy and practice of excessive and abusive use of Tasers” in the jail by: ratifying Taser misuse; failing to discipline guards who misuse Tasers; and failing to adequately train and supervise guards in the proper use of Tasers.

Plaintiffs sought to certify the suit as a class action, and requested injunctive and declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, in an amount to be determined at trial, and an award of attorneys’ fees.

The district court certified the suit as a class action and on December 14, 2010, the United States intervened pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

On February 4, 2011, Franklin County Sheriff Jim Karnes entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ), resulting in extensive policy revisions related to Taser training, use, and accountability. The agreement also provides for a compliance monitoring period and court oversight.

On the same date, the defendants entered into an agreement with the Plaintiff Class Representatives, which incorporated several provisions of the DOJ agreement. Most of the terms of the Class Agreement outline Class Counsel’s involvement in monitoring of compliance with the terms of the agreement.


The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office also agreed to pay class counsel “$30,000 as costs associated with the litigation of Plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief.” However, “Plaintiffs reserve[d] the right to seek attorney fees and costs for further proceedings in this matter with regard to the individual claims for damages and entity liability, or any subsequent action to seek compliance with this Agreement.”

The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on remaining claims in the case on January 2, 2013, and a settlement was reached with plaintiffs in other consolidated cases on that same date. The plaintiff class was represented by Ohio Legal Rights Service (LRS), of Columbus, Ohio. LRS is an independent state agency created by state law to protect and advocate the rights of people with disabilities. See: Shreve v. Franklin County, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 2:10-cv-00644-EAS-MRA.

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Related legal case

Shreve v. Franklin County