PORTLAND (AP) – A federal jury is being asked to decide whether a South Portland police officer’s decision to use a Taser during the arrest of a drunken-driving suspect amounted to excessive force.

Lawyers for police say the Taser was used in July 2005 because Stephen Parker resisted arrest, but Parker’s lawyers say he posed no immediate threat when officer Kevin Gerrish jolted him.

“I’m going to ask you to send a message to the law enforcement community in the state that we don’t accept this type of use of force,” Parker’s lawyer, Ben Gideon, told jurors Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Edward Benjamin, the lawyer representing Gerrish, said Parker resisted arrest by not following commands, by taking an aggressive stance toward the officers and by ultimately failing to submit to being handcuffed.

“They thought there was going to be a fight, and that’s why the Taser was deployed,” Benjamin said. “Mr. Parker’s civil rights weren’t violated when his resistance to arrest had to be overcome.”

Jurors watched 10-minute video of the arrest taken from the officer’s cruiser before opening statements were delivered.

On the tape, Parker is seen being subjected to a field sobriety test before he became confrontational, making an obscene gesture at a plainclothes officer. Gerrish used the Taser as another officer struggled to handcuff Parker.

Critics of Tasers, led by Amnesty International, say the weapons are overused because of police abuse and lack of training. Parker seeks a jury award for medical bills, lost wages and punitive damages against Gerrish.

A study released this month, conducted for the U.S. Department of Justice by emergency doctors, found that there was either on injury or minor cuts and bruises in 99.7 percent of 962 Taser incidents in six departments.


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