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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taser Madness

     From my book, "SWAT Madness:" "Tasers, which have been around since the 1970's, are handheld devices that deliver an electrical shock that temporarily stuns and disables suspects who resist authority or pose serious physical threats to arresting officers. The original five-watt stun gun, which produced a major jolt, was followed in 1994 by a seven-watt version called the Air-Taser, a product manufactured and sold by Taser International. In 1998, the company developed a higher-powered taser designed to stop the more combative, dangerous suspect likely to fight through the lighter applications. A year or so later, Taser International came out with the M 26, a 26-watt device that stunned subjects with 50,000 volts. The company began selling the X26 in 2003, a lighter, more portable version of the M 26.

     "While representatives of Taser International insist that their nonlethal device is safe, critics of the stun gun, such as Amnesty International, claim that tasers have killed more than a hundred people. In cases where citizens have died after being shocked by the police, forensic pathologists have found preexisting illnesses or the presence of drugs and other toxic substances. The safety debate continues in forensic medicine and in the courts. But among those who recognize and appreciate that tasers provide a nonlethal  alternative to billy clubs and guns, there is concern over the indiscriminant use of the device on people whose behavior doesn't call for such force. Over the past few years, police officers have tasered (or tased) children as young as six years of age; people who were mentally ill or physically disabled; and elderly women. Police officers have also stunned peaceful protestors and citizens stopped for traffic violations and other minor offenses whose actions did not justify the unpleasant experience of being jolted by 50,000 volts.

     "At present, officers in 11,000 police agencies carry taser guns. Although there is no governmental agency that keeps a record of the frequency and consequences of taser use, groups like Amnesty International  assert that the frequency of taser use in on the rise. [Studies have also shown that the increased use of taser guns has not reduced the number of police involved shootings.] The increasing number of outrageous examples of taser use reported in the news provide anecdotal evidence that officers are becoming less reluctant to deploy this nonlethal but extremely unpleasant type of force."


     A police officer in Rome, Georgia was fired recently for twice tasering a 20-year-old man who, having been stunned, fell off a ledge paralyzing him from the neck down. (A few years ago in New York City a man fell to his death after being tasered.)

     The city of Boulder, Colorado has just settled a civil rights lawsuit brought against the city and two police officers by a woman tasered in her home in 2006. The city will pay 53-year-old Sylvia Asten $80,000. The incident began when officers responded to the mentally ill woman's house after reports she had been out on the street screaming. When they tried to enter her home through the screened front door, she tossed the contents of a wine glass at them. The police cut a hole in the screen through which they tasered her. Asten, without her consent, was held two weeks in a mental ward.

     When the police on September 28, 2011 pulled over a car in New York City for running a stop light, the passenger, 30-year-old Howard Cooke, jumped out of the vehicle and ran. When the police caught the unarmed suspect, he resisted arrest. To subdue him they employed a "drive stun" which involves holding the device against the body without firing the electronic projectiles. The officers did this after the initial tasering had no effect. Cooke, who suffered from severe asthma, died. New York State Police detectives are investigating the incident to determine, among other things, if Cooke died from being tasered.


1 comment:

  1. Ken (EUP former student)January 13, 2012 at 3:10 PM


    A TASER is NOT LETHAL FORCE. To use lethal force you need to have articulate grounds to use a gun(or other lethal force). The suspect has a gun and is threatening to use it again, the suspect just fire a round at someone etc.
    A TASER is not LETHAL Force is NOT to be used as a means of Lethal Force.
    Here is an example that I use.
    I get dispatched to a bar fight. I and another arrive at the scene. We enter and find one suspect holding a broken bottle standing over a victim with a massive head wound. We order the suspect to drop the bottle. He says, "F*** You" and says you take it off of me". Now you may say stand there and talk with him for awhile and he will eventually comply, but you have not made the great encounter with a Meth Head like I have.
    Use The Taser and the entire incident will be over in a matter of seconds. Wait like you describe and God Bless the other patrons.