TASERS — A Need to Re-evaluate!

The primary problem with Tasers is that they were first authorized in order to give police officers an ALTERNATIVE to grappling with a suspect or having to use deadly force.

Early on, Tasers were welcome tools in the police arsenal. It was believed to be a tried and true method to immobilize an assailant without injury or death.

Did you know the TASER was invented by Jack Cover and patented in 1974 and that the acronym is “Thomas A. Swift Electronic Rifle”? Taser International sells its first weapon to police in Florida. In 1998, the company sold its first device to police in Florida. Today, more than 7,300 police agencies across the country have TASERS and more than 130,000 police officers carry them.

The Taser soon became the dominant method of restraint in situations in which deadly force would not be legal nor appropriate.

Taser Deaths in early 2000

So when a Taser is used and the subject dies, it is shocking, after all, isn’t it supposed to be “non-lethal?”

Attny. Corey Stoughton argued back in 2012, it is time to “Get a Grip on Taser Overuse” and for police to review Taser policies and training. Do police still need to re-review the Taser? Do they need more alternatives to using less-than-deadly force?

Taser deaths in 2015.

          “Medical experts released a report last week confirming for the first time that Tasers — the electronic stun guns that are becoming ubiquitous among cops in New York — can kill you. The report says that these weapons, which deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity through barbed wires or direct contact with the skin, can set off irregular heart rhythms and deadly heart attacks.

           “This medical evidence comes as no surprise to families of the hundreds of people who have died after being shocked by an officer with a Taser. For years, advocates have criticized the rapid proliferation of Tasers among law enforcement, warning that agencies have rushed to deploy them without adequate training and sound policies to ensure that they are used safely. Over the last 10 years, more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies have introduced Tasers to their officers.

           “Defenders of Tasers say that the weapons are less dangerous than guns. That argument assumes that Tasers are used as a substitute for deadly force. But they are not.

           “Last year, the New York Civil Liberties Union published the results of a survey of more than 800 use-of-force reports from eight police departments across the state. The data showed that 85 percent of Taser discharges in New York involve people who were not armed or even thought to be armed. In more than half of the reports, officers using Tasers failed to document any facts that would justify the use of a Taser under guidelines established by law enforcement experts from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Police Executive Research Forum…

           “The lure of new gadgets is familiar to anyone who has ripped into the box of a new smartphone or gaming system. But Tasers are not toys, they are weapons. Police departments must stop exposing [citizens] to the risk of death until they reform their use of force policies and training…”


[Corey Stoughton is an attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. She is primary author of the NYCLU’s 2011 report, “Taking Tasers Seriously: The Need for Better Regulation of Stun Guns in New York.” Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Get-a-grip-on-Taser-overuse-3538647.php#ixzz1uIRG1nsf                            ]