Former Louisiana police chief jailed for tasing inmates

(Reuters) - A former Louisiana police chief was sentenced to prison and another former state police chief pleaded guilty to civil rights violations after an investigation into excessive force found they used stun guns to discipline non-combative jail inmates, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Gregory Dupuis, 57, who served as police chief in Mamou, Louisiana from 1994 to 1997 and from 2004 to 2014, was sentenced on Tuesday to one year and one day in prison, the Justice Department said in a press release.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik of the Western District of Louisiana amid a nationwide debate over excessive police force, particularly against minorities, after a series of police killings of unarmed black men elsewhere in the United States.

Robert McGee, 44, who resigned as Mamou police chief on Oct. 8, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to violating an individual's civil rights. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Both Dupuis and McGee admitted using stun guns to punish inmates at the Mamou jail who were being disruptive, "even if the inmates’ disruption was purely verbal, and on inmates who were calm and compliant when the officer deployed the TASER," according to the press release.

The tiny town of Mamou, with 3,500 residents, is about 85 miles (137 km) west of Baton Rouge.

In one instance in 2010, Dupuis was called to the jail because of a verbally disruptive detainee. After the inmate complied with his order to get down from his bunk and put his hands on the far wall, Dupuis deployed a stun gun to his back, causing him to collapse in pain, injuring his knee, the release said.

That same year, McGee and an inmate were having a conversation and, "although the inmate posed no threat to himself or the officers, McGee fire the TASER at the inmate," causing him to collapse in pain.

"Law enforcement officers have a duty to ensure that detainees are treated fairly and humanely when taken into custody," said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley. "Mr. Dupuis and Mr. McGee breached that trust and violated their oaths by using excessive force on incarcerated individuals."

Reuters was not immediately able to identify lawyers for McGee and Dupuis.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Michael Perry)