Tasers No Longer a Non-Lethal Alternative for Law Enforcement

Tasers subject their victims to a 50,000 volt shock followed by 100 microsecond pulses of 1,200 volts.   Since 2001, more than 500 people in the United States have died after law enforcement officers used this weapon against them. A study published this week by the American Heart Association’s Circulation Journal confirms that the misuse of a Taser can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death.   

In theory, a Taser is intended to serve as a non-lethal method of control for law enforcement officers when they need to physically restrain a dangerous person. But as the new Circulation study demonstrates, Tasers cannot so simply be categorized as “non-lethal.” In addition, there are far too many instances in which officers have impulsively deployed Tasers against children, pregnant women and the mentally ill, even though the victims posed no real danger to either the officers or anyone else.

The new evidence that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death, coupled with the disturbing trend of officers using Tasers in flagrantly unnecessary situations, makes it all the more troubling that states do not uniformly or consistently govern or regulate officers’ use of Tasers. This means that Taser policies vary greatly between police departments, often leading to vague, outdated and inaccurate guidelines that result in misunderstanding about the misuse of these allegedly non-lethal weapons.

Taser training materials are mostly provided by Taser International, the private company that makes the weapon. Relying on a private, for-profit company that has a vested interest in promoting and selling their product for training guidelines is not only nonsensical, but dangerous. For example, though Taser International advises officers against administering a shock to the victim’s chest, it does not prohibit targeting this area. In fact, Taser minimizes the potential risk of death or cardiac trauma, instead emphasizing a need to insulate police officers – and itself – from the legal ramifications associated with a shock to the chest. The company goes on to recommend against aiming for the chest because “shots to the chest, particularly at close range, are frequently ineffective because of the lack of major muscle groups in the chest area.” It’s not difficult to see why relying on Taser International’s profit-seeking and liability-evading advice, rather than on rigorous and objective scientific evidence, is both unwise and unsafe.

The new Circulation study should provoke us all – including and most importantly law enforcement agencies – to revisit when the deployment of a Taser is worth its serious risks. To be sure, law enforcement officers have a legitimate interest in protecting themselves and the public during potentially violent encounters, and for the victim, a Taser is generally a less lethal alternative to a firearm. But history demonstrates that law enforcement agencies have failed to create and implement Taser training policies that effectively educate officers about the risks involved and ensure that officers only use Tasers when actually necessary. Law enforcement agencies should review and revise their Taser policies so that officers can make informed and responsible decisions about when using a Taser is warranted. Particularly given the increasing – and disturbing – popularity and indiscriminate use of Tasers, police departments around the country must ensure that they use these lethal weapons responsibly, ethically and as safely as possible.

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John A

While the story notes that 500 people have died after a Taser was used, they failed to note that 100 percent will eventually die. The causal relationship between use of Taser and death is extremely rare with a very few cases being attributed to uncontrolled falls. Also not mentioned is that the very limited study was reported by a doctor with finabcial interest in the outcome - he testifies in court against Taser.

Also not mentioned is that over a million people not engaged in violent activity have been voluntarily exposed to Taser. Of them ZERO have died. If a causal relationship existed, one would expect to find some small number of deaths in this very large control group.

More people die from ballons than Tasers. Why has there been no cry to ban them?

Finally there is "compared to what?" The 9 or 10 mm response works with great efficiency.

Anonymous

When was a taser classified as NON- Lethal, It's always been a Less - Lethal alternative.

And again I rather be Tased than beaten with a Baton or shot.

John is an A.

John A., you're arguments are fallacious. "100 percent will eventually die" Are you really using "everyone dies" as an argument. Is that your response to serial killings? You must be in law enforcement with your lack of logic.

"very few cases being attributed to uncontrolled falls" Not falls, TASERS. Had they died from falls, they wouldn't be in the 500 number THAT DIED FROM TASERS. Stop making things up.

Are you also denying the AHA's confirmation of lethality? Do you also usually deny scientific medical authority?

"a doctor with finabcial(?) interest in the outcome - he testified in court" You don't get paid to testify in court. Nice try.

"over a million people" what's your source? Just because not everyone dies from them doesn't mean they aren't lethal to some people. Another fallacious argument.

What's your source more people die from balloons? What about balloons kills them? Suffocation of babies what? Police aren't using balloons, so that point is moot. Stick with the topic here I know that's difficult for you.

Anonymous

So now the taser is a torture device. How sad.

Anonymous

What if the "Tasee " has a pacemaker implanted? Would there be lethal effects?
Would knowingly tasing then constitute an execution?

Truth Wins Out

In response to the pathetic attack on John A's comment, "expert witnesses" such as those whom are trained and experienced in a given field (perhaps that of Electric Conducted Weapons, e.g. TASER, latent print technicians, ballisticians, etc.) ARE paid to testify in court. Check your facts and get your head out of the sand.

I've reviewed several studies and the mortality rate associated with TASER use, including those deaths attributed to uncontrolled falls, proves that in 99.7% of TASER use incidents there are no serious or long-term injuries. The TASER is a far better alternative than a firearm. Something tells me that the lethality with a gun is slightly higher than with a TASER.

fred.foley@comc...

FYInfo: it is widely known that approximately 5-6%* of the over 50 US population is affected by cardiac arrhythmic-arrhythmia disorders. Many more aging Americans over 70 will develop such disorders; most are frequently under/undiagnosed.

For citizens over 50 and in particular those with such diagnoses who find themselves in circumstance that would have a police-person use a taser [weapon] they would be advised to say... 'Please don't, it might kill me' and its use for things like shoplifting or a traffic stop are unnecessary - let them go or get help in numbers. Recently we saw a CA traffic [parked car] stop where a 50 year old women suffered cardiac arrest, nearly died.

Obviously most all would never say so as they don't know they have the problem but the science is real and many over 50 are at risk and the numbers of those affected are growing. Perhaps this is some group’s perverse way of controlling aging healthcare costs by eliminating feisty over 50's?

All kidding aside...Most people over 50 don't know they have heart [electrical] problems but many [most] cops-police have taser device/weapons? Why not use non lethal-mental hospital care techniques to stop-restrain or let her go, block her exit [car]?

It seems as though the growing use of tasering, police policy, risks potentially killing those over 50 with the scientifically* well KNOWN disease by the use of lethal force?

*..."a quarter of the population between the ages of 55-75
years can expect to develop arrhythmia". European Heart Journal, Vol.
27, 2006, pp. 949-53 Boriani, G, et al. The epidemiological burden a challenge for clinicians and health care systems. European Heart Journal, Vol. 27, 2006, pp. 893-94”

Anonymous

Woman tortured for having too much money and wanting to spend it at a local business on Christmas presents for her relatives.

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20121213/NEWS03/121219537

Moral of the story -- if you live in NH don't shop there!

Anonymous

A woman was recently tortured by taser for the 'crime' of having too much money and wanting to spend it on Christmas gifts for her family back in China.

Since this site flags links as spam, please search on Union Leader Chinese woman tasered for more information.

December 15, 2012

Anonymous

My 20 year old daughter was a passenger in a "routine" stop by a policeman in Augusta, GA. Her friend was stopped for not having tail lights but it grew into a "you must be on drugs" arrest. My daughter, sensitive as she is, started to cry and ask why her friend was being arrested. To this, the officer threatened to Taz her. Now with people dying from tazer assaults by police, wouldn't this be deemed a terroristic threat? Why do we have to put up with this? Policemen are not professional enough or, as it appears, mature enough to handle simple situations without wanting to pull out their tazers. I think they should be eliminated from a policeman's bag of tricks.

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