Officer Fired For Tasering Unconscious Man

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When a Payson police officer tasered an unconscious man in November, it was the final straw that cost him his job.

Christopher Harold appealed the termination to the Payson Personnel Board. On Thursday night, the board recommended to the Payson Town Council to uphold the termination.

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Christopher Harold

The council, after a 20-minute executive session, voted 5-2, with Councilors Mike Vogel and Tim Fruth in dissent, to uphold the termination.

Attorney Martin Bihn, of Bihn and McDaniel, represented Harold, who asked that the hearing be held in public, rather than in executive session.

Bihn said Harold was called to a scene in November where a man had passed out. Attempts to wake the man failed, and another officer, Reed Watson, wondered if a taser would wake the man.

Harold then tasered the man, who instantly regained consciousness.

When firefighters arrived a few minutes later, the officers informed them a taser had been used.

One firefighter got into a verbal altercation with Watson on the scene over the incident, Bihn said. As the two men argued, the firefighter heard someone telling him to, "Shut up," unless he wanted to be tasered, too.

Attorney Kim S. Alvarado of the Grasso Law Firm representing the Payson Police Department, said the firefighter did not know who had made the remark.

A resident, who had called police about the unconscious man, said Harold made the remark.

Watson was suspended for one day for his part in the incident, Bihn said.

Tasering a man for a brief moment in an attempt to revive him is not grounds for termination, Bihn said.

Police Chief Gordon Gartner said Harold's past performance also played into the decision to terminate him.

Gartner, Police Commander Don Engler and Alvarado told the council that Harold had been reprimanded repeatedly for falling behind on his police reports and had not improved on his performance.

He also missed three hours of firearm training and two court cases.

Alvarado said Harold was verbally disrespectful to his supervisors.

She said Gartner took no pleasure in terminating Harold, but had no choice because he had become too much of a liability to keep on the force.

Vogel wondered why it appeared Harold was dong a good job until 2006. His evaluation scores were in the mid-70s, which meant, according to the police grading scale, that he was meeting the requirements of being a police officer.

Fruth wondered why no disciplinary action was taken against an officer who was performing so poorly.

Alvarado said the police department wanted to make it work and was trying to work with him.

Fruth also asked why the police department allowed Harold to coach the middle school football team since it would interfere with his job.

She said the department thought it would help him since he had some personal issues he was going through at the time.

Harold was told in his last evaluation that he needed to improve to keep his job, Gartner said.

The taser incident occurred not long after the evaluation.

"There is no logical reason to taser an unconscious person at 3 a.m.," Gartner said.

Harold said he enjoyed working as a police officer, but it was still just a job to him.

"There are a lot more important things to me than the Payson Police Department, like my family," he said. What concerned him the most was Gartner's contention that he was untruthful. "I did not lie. If he said that I needed to be terminated for my reports, we would not be here today."

Vogel wanted to know if counseling was offered to Harold. Engler said in his conversations with the officer, it appeared his personal problems were not affecting his work.

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