Aspen Cop Fired Over Taser Incident

July 30 2006, 1:53 AM

Last month I wrote about Aspen police officer Melinda Calvano who tasered a homeless woman in Aspen while she was sitting on the ground. The woman was suspected of stealing a sweater from a thrift shop. As you can see, the post generated a lot of comments, initially because it found its way onto a police message board. The officers who responded were angry, to put it mildly. The Aspen Times now reports that the investigation has concluded and Officer Calvano has been fired from the police force.

In a July 27 memo to Calvano, City Manager Steve Barwick stated: "Your judgment and conduct on that occasion leads me to conclude that you are not suited to be a police officer with the Aspen Police Department. ... [Y]our decision to use a taser on an elderly woman who posed no immediate threat to you, herself, or any one else in the community, displays a complete lack of understanding of the values, philosophy, and mission statement of the Aspen Police Department."

One of the outside officers involved in the investigation thought Calvano should not be "Monday morning quarterbacked."

[Vail Officer Susan] Douglas determined that Calvano had violated two points of police policy (discharging the Taser without another officer present and failing to document the incident sufficiently), she ultimately concluded that the officer was justified in using her Taser in this instance.

Another of the investigating officers saw it differently:

Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman, who reviewed an Aspen police report on the incident, was not definitive in his evaluation of the incident. Rather, Wickman noted that at several points during the incident, Calvano would have been justified in discharging her Taser - when Alexy raised her walking stick, for instance. But once Alexy was on the ground, he wrote, "The officer can now wait for backup. The incident at this point is stabilized. I cannot understand the reason at this point to use [the Taser]. There is clearly no threat to the officer."

Goodbye, Officer Calvano.

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