home

More Concern About Tasers

by TChris

TalkLeft has frequently discussed the risks associated with the proliferation of Tasers as a police weapon. The latest example of that concern comes from Chicago.

A 14-year-old boy went into cardiac arrest after police shot him with a Taser stun gun, raising new questions about the weapon. ... The boy was regaining consciousness Wednesday but was not yet talking.

Police say that the boy lunged at an officer, but the facts are in dispute.

Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris said his office is considering civil action after its investigation found the boy was no longer violent and sitting on a couch when police arrived. "I'm consistently hearing this boy never moved off the couch," Harris said. "If he did, it was after he got hit with the Taser gun." County officials said they have no information to indicate the boy attacked anybody.

The controversy surrounding Tasers hasn't stopped law enforcement agencies from asking for more of the weapons. Elected officials in a number of communities -- including Pittsburgh and the Illinois cities of Naperville and Canton -- will need to decide whether the risks outweigh the benefits. Those decisions may benefit from research (funded by a grant from the Department of Justice) into the effect of a Taser shock on the heart.

While it would be prudent to await the results of further research before buying (or approving the use of) Tasers, the problem may solve itself, as the continuing controversy has caused the value of the weapon's manufacturer, Taser International, Inc., to fall precipitiously. Investors have responded to reports that 84 people have died after being shocked by a Taser, and to news that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company's dubious claim that the weapon is safe.

< Sentencing Guideline and Mandatory Minimum Fixes | Stupid Criminal of the Week >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft


  • Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 10:57:16 AM EST
    ?do you think free markets will re/solve this? they'll enron / worlcom the books and everybody's back on board. death is no deterent to profits!!!

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 11:08:44 AM EST
    I don't know about you, but my parents taught me to be very respectful of Police Officers. Shame on this kid's parents for not being better shepherds of this young life.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 11:30:16 AM EST
    Tsers and other devices are labelled as "Non-lethal", but anytime you shoot enough electricity to power a small office building through a body, there is the distinct possibility for tragic results. It would come as no surprise to me that Police are probably a bit more quick on the trigger since this is considered "non-lethal". Tasers and other technologies are supposed to offer an alternative to deadly force, not become a control/restraining device or handcuff replacement, or more frightening, a torture device. Okay, TL, go ahead and call the paramedics- I'm with you on this one.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 11:42:20 AM EST
    Gerry Owen at February 10, 2005 12:30 PM Okay, TL, go ahead and call the paramedics- I'm with you on this one. Gerry i sincerely hope that your agreement with a TL position does not lead to any long lasting heart ailments!!!

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 12:11:14 PM EST
    Bravo Gerry, thanks for being a sensible conservative poster. We need more like you for good debate.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 12:38:31 PM EST
    Agreed Gerry. I am wondering, however, from whence this tempered judgment comes?

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:23:44 PM EST
    What is it with cops hurting/killing kids lately? I have a niece who's 13 (14 soon) and a 12 yr. old nephew. They are obviously children, even at a glance. I guess "kid gloves" is an obsolete expression in law enforcement.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:45:19 PM EST
    kdog, mfox- Cops are supposed to take control of a situation, and we give them a certain amount of leeway to do this. My concern here is that cops are increasingly using Tasers for more than what they were designed to be-an alternative to firearms. Prior to the advent of the Taser, would they have shot the kid? They shouldn't have used it in the first place. I try to approach every issue by looking at it from all sides- If I cannot defend or support my position, I feel it must be wrong. As such, I guess I'm the oxymoronic open minded conservative (although in all honesty I have found more open minds on the right than the Left over the past few years!). I appreciate a good debate, as you all seem to here. I like this site, since it doesn't get reduced to name calling very often. HardLeft- Hah! that was funny, and educational. Makes me want to plan a surprise party for the evil mother-in-law (just kidding, she's actually sweet).

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:53:43 PM EST
    Close mindededness is certainly a bi-partisan character flaw, Gerry.
    Prior to the advent of the Taser, would they have shot the kid? They shouldn't have used it in the first place.
    Excellent point.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:57:43 PM EST
    "Elected officials in a number of communities -- including Pittsburgh and the Illinois cities of Naperville and Canton -- will need to decide whether the risks outweigh the benefits. Those decisions may benefit from research (funded by a grant from the Department of Justice) into the effect of a Taser shock on the heart." Okay, I have a real problem with this. There shouldn't BE ANY QUESTION on risk/benefits if the damn things are used properly and in the proper context. Rather than a perp being shot dead, a Taser IS a better alternative. But everyone is now accepting their use as normal restraining devices? A couple of cops can't handle a kid without it? That is the problem, IMHO. If the kid lunged the cop, smack him if your threatened, you don't juice them.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:59:37 PM EST
    kdog- "Close mindededness is certainly a bi-partisan character flaw, Gerry." AGREED. Particularly in election year.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 02:01:37 PM EST
    GO - Taser's do not provide enough power to run a small office building. They are hi-voltage devices with a very small amount of current, and it is current that is the killer, not voltage. Now, did the police do right? Did the kid attack them? That's in dispute.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 02:16:03 PM EST
    PPJ- Apparently, the police say the kid "lunged" at them. Not reached for a weapon, etc. Merely "lunged". It's a fourteen year old kid. You don't zap them, you restrain them. It's not like the kid was hopped up on something tossing cops around. These things are getting way overused beyond their intended purpose. Boquisucio- I was one of those leather jacket long haired hoodlums in High School, so I learned to respect the police from watching what happened to those who didn't. The police always seemed to be pretty fair as long as you didn't run, lead them on a chase, call them names, spit on them, or relieve yourself in the back of their car. (all of which I have witnessed at one time or another). With that understanding, I read all these things about arrests gone bad and think "WHAT did that guy do to tick those cops off so bad?" Now as a Law Abiding Adult, I have a few Policeman friends (one of which was the one who watered the Back seat of a cruiser, proof that people do change), and their attitudes toward their jobs seem little different than the ones who chased us all over town as kids. So my point of reference comes from both sides of the nightstick.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 02:40:29 PM EST
    Silly liberal sensitivity. A taser is a 1000 times better than a gun. If the kid was shot instead of taser-ed, he probably would have been dead. And I have no sympathy for people who lunged at police, kid or no kid. He should just stand there and listen to the policman. It is not like the police is using tasers without any provacation.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 03:08:08 PM EST
    Dearest no-name. I am far from a liberal. Tasers have the potential of killing. this kid was on a couch under control, then reputedly "lunged" at the officers. I'm willing to take the cops at their word, accept he lunged at them. Its a fourtenn year old kid. you restrain them, not juice them. The taser is supposed to be an Alternative for deadly force. Using a taser in many cases is infinitely better than a gun. I doubt you will find anyone to argue that. But the Taser also has a certain level of risk, and it is being overused. If the cop felt he was being attacked, smack the punk. If the cop thought he was trying to escape, restrain the kid. You don't whip out the Taser at every opportunity! If the Kid coupled his alleged lunge with a knife or other sharp object, then its use would be justifiable, and preferred to the other primary tool police use for protection (Mr. .45). The Taser more and more is being used to enforce compliance, which is wrong- fatally so in several cases.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 03:18:35 PM EST
    Dear Gerry, I don't the statistics on taser show a high level of risks. It is not obvious that other means of restrain works better. If the policeman "smacked" the kid, as you worded it, he may have broken a bone and would have been accused of excessive force anyway. As long as it is non-lethal, I don't see why it cannot be used as a means for compliance. It certianly is better than a night-stick which can break bones, as succintly shown in Ronnie King's case. And I hope you are not suggesting policeman should go bare-knuckle with suspects.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 03:31:59 PM EST
    I have been on both sides of the courtroom. I have defended and prosecuted. Most police officers do not want to use excessive force. They want to use a minimum of force to take control of the situation. If you have ever been through a shooting board or investigation of a death, you want to avoid the situation. Unfortunately, there are some officers who like to abuse their authority and will use the taser inappropriately. This case seems to fall under former category. A 220 pound offender who has already battled off three people is a threat. The use of a taser would be appropriate. I feel sorry for the boy. Unfortunately, he was a ward of the stae. Bosicuido - he did not have any parents to bring him up in the right manner. The real problem may stem from an over-selling of the Taser as a safe device. The injuries caused by the device should be monitored and a uniform set of guidelines developed for use in appropriate situations. The Taser is certainly a better alternative thant a gun. It no doubt saves more lives than it takes. However, many of the officers I know do not appreciate the fact that it is still a significant use of force. That is a matter for training and a more balanced sales job by the manufacturer.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 04:19:59 PM EST
    Gee, who could've known that being hit with 50,000 volts was bad for your health?

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#19)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 05:39:51 PM EST
    GO - Whatever. My point is that Taser's are better than guns. Did the kid lunge? I don't know. I do know that a 125 pound person can cause a lot of problems.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 06:03:50 PM EST
    PPJ- a 14 yr old kid coming off a couch should be something a cop can handle, particularly with backup around. Throw in something for the kid to use as a weapon and the whole dynamic changes (then zap him). I'm not denying that Tasers are better than guns (usually). But the Taser can kill (rarely) or cause serious need for medical attention (not as uncommon as you would think). I ask again, would the cop have used his pistol if he didn't have the Taser? Was the suspect resisting normal attempts to subdue? That is the standard that I feel should be in place. A few bruises on a brat are considerably better than "Dead" or "Comatose" from both a lawsuit and moral perspective. And I whole heartedly agree the kids parents should have raised him better, if he did lunge at the cops.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#21)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 06:04:48 PM EST
    Gerry Owen & J. Mohr Certainly, the Taser is one more tool in at the Cops' disposal, one that must be used judiciously. Since I wasn't in the Officer's shoes during that incident I can't confidently make any constructive comments on this matter. Only to observe that the use of the Taser, is certainly a step down in lethality from the use of a .40S&W.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#22)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 06:05:32 PM EST
    You put into words what I was trying to convey better than I did. Thanks.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#23)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 07:23:09 PM EST
    GO - Can you tell me why a cop should have to physically take down a 14 year old when he has another, non-leathal method? Let's review what the cop potentially faces: AIDS infection. Hepatitis C infection. Both of the above are potentially fatal. What happens when the cop, or one of the others, puts a choke hold on the kid, and the kid dies. What happens when the cop grabs the kid and flips him onto the floor, snapping his spinal column in the process? Gerry, I am disapointed in you. In most cases you think things through better than this. In closing, let me ask a practical question. Have you ever tried to put down a 125, or even a 100 pound person who absolutely didn't want to give up, and was out of control? Try it sometimes. It is a daunting task.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#24)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 07:34:56 PM EST
    PPJ- I hadn't considered the Aids/infectious diseases angle, and that is a good point. Rather than Taser, mace the brat! The Taser is useful in many cases, but the risks associated with its overuse are not acceptable. I haven't had to take down a 100+ person in several years, and you are correct it isn't easy. Cops used to get training in that sort of thing. You present a different situation, however. Define Out of Control. There are situations where a taser might be necessary, however the restraint on this potentially fatal piece of equipment should be greater than what currently seems to be the norm.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#25)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 07:51:05 PM EST
    Gerry - I used "out of control" to basically describe someone who isn't rational. You know, at the end of the day, what we have here is the fact that we have some members of society that are in trouble. On the other hand, we have police who we ask to protect us, but who we want to do it in oh such careful ways.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#26)
    by chupetin on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 08:44:00 PM EST
    Jim writes On the other hand, we have police who we ask to protect us, but who we want to do it in oh such careful ways. The only thing I want from my police department is for them to do their job in a profesional manner. If you read this blog like I do you see that almost everyday day there is a story of police misconduct. Having been subjected to their prejudice and racism all my life I can honestly say the majority of police officers I have had interaction with have been less than profesional in their actions. You make it sound like we want them pussyfooting around, nothing could be further from the truth. Is profesional conduct too much to ask?

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#27)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 10:04:44 PM EST
    Jim (I promise I haven't lost my mind, here)- I am all about giving the police plenty of leeway to do what they need to do. However, I think many in law enforcement utilize the Taser in situations where other measures would be as effective without a clear understanding of the possible effects. It can potentially kill someone! I don't buy for a second the cops just zapped this kid on a whim,but in today's litigious society I humbly suggest they resort to the nightstick or mace- a few bruises and redeye will cost the dept a heck of a lot less than the pain and suffering bill from this kids' hospital stay. Plus the added potential for an unnecessary death lawsuit? We had a lady get Tasered here in Oklahoma awhile back for talking back to the cop over a traffic ticket! The non lethal tagline has led to the police using it in situations that previously they wouldn't have used much in the way of force at all. Unless the suspect is completely out of hand and uncontrollable (which I concede this kid may have been, we do not know all the facts), this potentially lethal piece of equipment should not be employed. I honestly do not think many in Law Enforcement even realize the number of deaths and near deaths this thing has caused, or understand the weapon's lethal potential. We do put a lot of restrictions on police, too many. However, the Taser is a newer technology that I think needs some guidlines on how it is employed and what situations it can be used in- much like Police Depts have done for deadly force. The Taser is a great alternative for police to use instead of Smith & Wesson, and cops should have it in their arsenal. But shouldn't they at least have a guideline or standard for employing soimething that has a proven deadly potential?

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#28)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 10:13:14 PM EST
    "The only thing I want from my police department is for them to do their job in a profesional manner. If you read this blog like I do you see that almost everyday day there is a story of police misconduct" I would prefer effective and fair to professional- and in my experience most are (as well as professional). As to police misconduct, we are a big nation and it will happen. There are miscreants in every walk of life and profession, and good people chip in with stupid decisions and mistakes every day. Much of what I see described as "Police misconduct" leaves me wondering what the guy did to make the cops react like that- and frequently I think people on both sides are jumping to conclusions without full access of the facts. Jim, by the way, was probably the first guy to comment on this blog.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#29)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 08:49:23 PM EST
    I did a search for Tazer on Google and found this web site. I am a detective. I handle white collar, high dollar crimes and actually rarely leave my desk anymore. I was, however, at one time a street cop and although I donít carry a tazer I was trained with one about two years ago. Let me clear up a few things. First, the tazer is NOT an alternative to a firearm. It is a step in the escalation level of force for an officer to consider BEFORE resorting to a firearm. It has subdued suspects that a few years ago would have been justifiably shot with a gun. It has saved more lives than it will ever take. NO officer wants to go through a shooting review board or deal with an internal investigation in to excessive force of any kind. Next, someone suggested using mace (actually we use pepper spray) or a night stick as opposed to the tazer. WHY? Pepper spray has the potential to affect everybody in the room. I have used pepper spray several times in my career and found it is effective about 50% of the time. I have also used a night stick twice and both times the person was so hyped on adrenalin it had no affect. Most officers carry a collapsible night stick for breaking windows, not hitting people. I have been zapped by a tazer as part of the training. I took the full 5 second ride and it sucked. But then it was over. Itís not the torture devise people make it out to be, itís a tool. Call your local police department and see if they have a ride along program. Go out and ride for a few nights before you are so quick to judge the actions of officers. I despise corrupt and abusive police as much as you. They give us all a bad name and if they violate the law they should be prosecuted.

    Re: More Concern About Tasers (none / 0) (#30)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 06:23:01 PM EST
    Tazers should be outlawed at the federal level. Get a load of this news breaker in upstate NY where some cop decides the most appropriate place to tazar a learning disabled woman is in the genitals! Eye for an eye, say I. http://www.wroctv.com/news/story.asp?id=16789&r=l