Tasers were developed as a non-lethal option to bring dangerous situations under control. But law enforcement officials are now using them with wild abandon in cases where simple diplomacy or a little hard work would otherwise suffice.
In the past I’ve written about the police tasering of a UCLA student for refusing to show his school ID, as well as the time a cop tasered an 11 year old at school because the officer on hand apparently couldn’t physically restrain him?!? (Gee, what would they have done 10 years ago?)
Police have also used Tasers against peaceful protesters (NPR audio about tasering protesters), a pregnant woman (8 months) and an elderly man who called 911 to get medical attention for his diabetic seizure.
So who’s next? Maybe you.
Now, police are being given the green light all over the world to completely disable people whenever they feel like it, and I’m certain we are going to see a whole lot more abuse as a result.
- People will be tasered long before it’s a necessity. Think about it, if you were a cop why even bother to break a sweat when you know you could probably control a situation physically? All you have to do is taser the hell out of someone and they’ll do anything you say.
- People will be intimidated and threatened by the use of tasers. Most people are not that scared of police officers because they feel reasonably sure they won’t be shot (like with a gun). But now you can’t be sure that even arguing with a cop won’t result in a tasering.
- Women will be tasered and raped while they are conscious but unable to react. If you were a rapist you could use one of these to rape anyone you wanted. This guy did, and it happened to this homeless woman and two women in D.C.
- Men will be tasered and then beaten without being able to defend themselves. Want proof? Here is a group of “private security guards” hired by the Israeli government using stun guns against unarmed Rabbis.
- More people will die as a direct result of taser use. In the US nearly 200 people have already died after being shot by a taser gun, including a mentally ill homeless woman who was stunned with a Taser while on the ground in handcuffs.
In case you aren’t quite familiar with the technology, here is a news clip with a bit of an an overview. The most important quote in the clip:
Police say they will only be used when someone poses a real and immediate risk to themselves, the public or the police.
So, just how effective is a Taser? Well, here is what it does to you, as demonstrated by US Military personnel undergoing police training:
For example, here is a cop Tasering a guy who is holding an infant without ever even attempting to place a hand on him. It was a first resort, not a last resort, and it caused the infant to be injured.
Also, take the case of New Orleans resident Ivy Gisclair. Held at OPP for unpaid parking tickets, Gisclair was about to be released on his own recognizance when Hurricane Katrina hit. After languishing with thousands of other prisoners in a flooded jail, Gisclair was sent to the Bossier Parish Maximum Security Prison. Once there, Gisclair apparently had the nerve to inquire about being held past his release date. Gisclair has testified that he was then restrained and stunned repeatedly with a Taser, before being thrown, naked and unconscious, into solitary confinement.
“I can’t imagine any justification for that,” says Tom Jawetz from the ACLU. “[Prison guards] were kicking, beating and ‘Tasing’ him until he lost consciousness. A line was crossed that should never have been crossed.”
And how about this? Here are several large officers Tasering a Woman who is laying on the ground. Why? You cannot convince me that she “…poses a real and immediate risk to herself, the public or the police.” The video makes it exceedingly clear that the weapon is being used as a torture device.
Now, if you want to see a situation where Taser use was clearly warranted, here you go. These officers are acting professionally, they are trying to diffuse the situation and use other means, and they are up against a huge, drunk 340 pound guy.
Police departments operate on a set of standards called a Force Continuum which define the amount of force allowable in a given situation. A typical force continuum from a US government publication on use of force looks like this:
- Verbal command
- Handcuff suspect
- Search suspect
- Use wrist/arm lock
- Use takedown
- Strike suspect
- Wrestle suspect
- Pepper spray
- Use baton
- Use firearm
Here is a PDF document which outlines Categories of Police Continuum of Force for 6 different cities (see page 37), and all are basically similar to the sample above.
As we’ve seen demonstrated in the videos above, the Police have decided that the best place to insert the new Taser capability is often immediately after verbal command, and long before any physical control attempts.
Amnesty International however has called for a Taser moratorium by all law enforcement agencies based on the concern that “stun technology” promoted as harmless may, in fact, be “excessive and lethal force” because of 74 deaths that the organization says have occurred after Taser use.
But it seems to me that officers should be allowed to use them, but forced to treat Tasers at the same level on the Force Continuum as Pepper Spray, another non-lethal weapon whose effects wear off. They both inflict the same amount of pain, although Tasers are just on a more compressed time line. Huge pain followed by quick relief, compared to moderate pain with slower relief. If anything, the Taser is worse.
In the end though, I think we’ve all become too sheepish to actually open our mouths and complain about the unnecessary force. For example, if you’ve got a blog are you going to publish this article? I generally doubt it. And that is evidence of why the Tasering will continue!
Well, that and the fact that we get to watch the hilarious antics of guys like this:
Bryan R. says
Honestly I am not sure what everyone is complaining about. Yes there are occurences when police go over the line, but it is not just police that do this. Everyone goes over the line at times. I admit that police should be held to higher standards as we give them power to perform their jobs. However I plan to get into the police field (currently studying Criminology) and I see it as this. What is better to do: Beat someone with a baton, pepperspray, grapple or taser? Now obviously I am speaking of a situation where diplomacy has failed and they simply will not comply. I personally would use the taser as it has the least amount of risk for bystanders, the suspect or myself to be seriously harmed.
Now to further get into the situation let us say there is a man in a woman’s home, I get called their for domestic violence and the lady who owns the home wants me to arrest him for attacking. Now I issue a verbal command for him to let me place restraints (handcuffs) on him and let me take him to my cruiser. He says he is not going to come with me and simply stands there. Now what should I do? I could try to repeat it (and probably would, warning him that I would have to use force) Most likely he would give the same response. I then have to decide how to force him to submit. I could try the baton or to grapple with him, but either way there is a chance that he could try to grab a weapon from my belt or may have a weapon on himself. I could try pepperspray, but the problem with that is it causes overspray which could also hit the nearby woman. So my best option is the taser which will cause him to go down without the chance of accdientally hurting the bystander or giving him a chance to attack or take any weapon from me.
Now are you honestly going to stand there and tell me I should not use the taser when someone is “passively resisting” my order?
John P. says
Your scenario seems to negate any other options. But for thousands of years humans have policed one another without the availability of a Taser.
But there are other options. How about you call for backup? If there are 4 of you standing there, it’s much less likely he will resist. And it doesn’t involve using a Taser which inflicts excruciating pain and could in some instances cause death.
You also fall into the classic trap of thinking that just because you give an order, people must jump. Your job as a police officer is not to “give orders”. It is to help people. So as long as you are controlling the situation and helping to diffuse it, it doesn’t really matter if the guy is obeying your every command. He doesn’t need to be “punished” for not listening to you.
And by the way, it is exactly this attitude that makes people hate police. Police power is derived by a mandate from the people. But that power should be exercised with constraint. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you should. I could find 10 people to sue today because the law is on my side, but I don’t.
Finally, I’m absolutely 100% telling you that “passive” resistance is no excuse for you to taser someone. And if I’m ever on a jury and you do it, I’ll find you guilty so fast your head will spin. If you don’t want to put yourself into potentially dangerous situations, don’t become a cop. I mean holy crap… that would be like me saying, “I’m going to join the Marine Corps, but I don’t want to actually put myself in danger.”
With great power, comes great responsibility.
“non-lethal” methods such as tasering make it too easy for the police to take the easy way out and just “taser-em” instead of actually doing their jobs and respecting the oath they took to defend the Constitution, and that means realizing that the people they are dealing with have rights
Miguel Romero says
I’m afraid to write to everyone here of what I am about to write. You probably will think I am a liar. I give my word that this is pure truth. I have a By Polar disorder. This happened in August of this year, 2008. I went through the worst Manic Depression eptoside that I have ever gone through in August. It was a nightmare of just one day in August.
I will not tell you what I did. I’m honestly and defintely was not out to hurt others or myself. What I did that day came off very strange to the police. Like I said, I will not tell you of my eptoside. Lets just say the cops were trying to figure things me out. A few friends were laging behind me a few miles. I had just arrived at my parents home. My parents were not home. A cop took completely took me by surprise. He was at my car door. I opened the door and the cop tazed me and wouldn’t not STOP!
I heard later that two of my neighbors came out immently. They probably called 911. I watched the woman being tazed. I cannot and will not watch that again. I can abolutly promise you that I went through the same thing as she did! I was tazed even longer than she was. I’ll never forget of the most horrible suffering that I felt. I can promise you with all my heart that I’d rather give away 100 billion dollars(If I had it) than if I had to go through that again.
I got tazed for a few seconds, 6 months prior to this. I’m not trying to be prideful, but I consider myself tough. In a way that I can take a lot of pain. I’ve never been violent in my life, and seldom lose my temper even. The time 6 months before I didn’t even fall to the ground like most people would.
Two police were having trouble getting a hold on me to take me to the mental hospital. The cop tazered me for about 3 seconds. That didn’t work, so he kicked me on the ground. This might be hard to swallow also- I have never ever done illegal drugs. I just have a chemical imbalance. Later on I atemped to sue the police. I wanted my voice to be heard more than ever. It wasn’t really about the money. But I called and talked to many lawyers and they didn’t want to take on the case.
I’m a very active christian also and constantly want to strive everyday to be more Christ like. I just wanted my voice to be heard. I’m glad that this sight is here. The one police officer in August tazed me for a very long time- like a minute or two. When more police officers arrived he quit tazering me. The suffering was unbearable.
I’m a runner. A very fast runner too. I had trained all year for a marathon and was soon going to run one. I probably ran 400 miles this year. Last winter I even ran about 40 miles in one day. After I was tazed, I have never breathed so hard in my life. I thank God everyday that I lived through it.
All the ‘charges’ that I did that day were completely dropped. I only had to go to the mental hospital for 3 weeks. I don’t think I will take action to what the police did that most horrible day. The lawyers wouldn’t take action last winter. I assume that they will not take action again. I just wanted my voice to be heard.
Thank you for who ever put this site on the internet. If anyone desires to personally E-Mail me, you’re more than welcome to do so. My E-Mail address is- HIDDEN-FOR-THE-AUTHORS-OWN -PROTECTION@yahoo.com
10 years ago, that child would have been one year old… and PERHAPS then that officer would have settled simply for pepper spray.
It does not take the voltage of a taser to kill a person. We picked up a man at a local campground a few years ago who died as a result of clicking one of those prank lighters that gives, in comparison to a taser, virtually no shock at all. Unfortunately for this person, his pacemaker did not like the jolt much.
Being a retired officer of 25 years, I think I am in a position to state that “Stop resisting” is full of crap. I believe tasers should be an option, however they should be treated as a lethal weapon.
“How many of you idiots think you can do their job and allow yourself to be hit on a daily basis for a career span of 20-30 years by resisting suspects?”
I did my job over 20 years, and seldom got hit by anyone… could count the times on the fingers of two hands. You appear to have an overactive imagination when it comes to how much abuse we have to deal with. Oh sure, we deal with VERBAL abuse daily… but whomever cannot tolerate that has no business wearing a badge. Before I entered law enforcement, I learned to tolerate verbal abuse by having a marine Drill Instructor jabbing the brim of his smokey-bear hat against my forehead, spitting in my face, while he called me everything but a human being. If 18 yr old boys can learn such discipline, so can men who we are entrusting to carry a badge and gun.
It has been my experience that most often, when a person who was not drunk or on drugs came to blows with an officer, the entire thing could have been dealt with by a little diplomacy on the part of the officer. I have talked some wild and suicidal individuals out of some scary situations… simply by being a little sympathetic ear, and a calm voice. However, all too many of my fellow officers, and it appears more and more every day, stop thinking of themselves as servants of the law, and begin thinking of themselves as the law. Usually this is individuals who are fairly new to the force, fresh out of the academies. Some officers who react in this manner are scared.. but most are simply lazy and arrogant and more than willing to use a taser, or nightstick, on anyone who does not obey their orders instantly, no matter how irrelevant or arbitrary the orders were. I have seen men taken down by force when they would have gone quietly.. but the person DARED to challenge the officers authority by asking why he was being arrested before submitting to handcuffs.
“For some reason society thinks that officers need to put up with anything people dish out and cry foul when officers defend themselves. Use a little bit of commonsense. Officers are trained professionals who risk their lives to protect us!!!”
Yes, our job is to protect the citizens… not to be something the citizens need protecting from. I have heard many of my fellow officers make such statements, and my response is always the same… Nobody forced you into law enforcement… if you cannot take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Taking a few bruises on occassion is part of the job, and if I was not willing to deal with that, then I would have left the force long before I did.
There are many good cops out there, doing very good work. But take my word for it, there are plenty of them who dishonor the profession, using force when unjustified or unnecessary, lying to get warrants, and even lying under oath. It happens every day.
Saim Baig says
Not my kind of thing i am a soft hearted person.:P
James Bodman says
If you have any heart trouble at all, I am convinced a taser can kill you!!!!!
Excited Delirium says
Since my previous post I’ve been really thinking quite a bit on all these topics related to tasers, use of force, etc.
It seems to me that the ‘Use Of Force’ guidelines should really put an important division between what they’re allowed to use on people that may be passively resisting, and those that are actually actively fighting.
I mean, if you punch a police officer and he shoots you dead, that doesn’t really seem all that outrageous to me. I would never punch a police officer because they’ve got guns and they’re allowed to use them. The police are allowed to defend themselves. This is obvious.
It doesn’t apply to passive resistance and noncooperation.
I don’t believe that police should be permitted to escalate to the use of severe pain on people that are passively resisting or non-cooperative. They should simply use physical force to take them into custody. And then also charge them with Resisting Arrest and Failure To Comply in addition to whatever the original charge was.
Here is a subtle line-in-the-sand that defines a ‘police state’:
If the police are permitted to force (verb) you to comply (by tasering you for example), then I’m sorry to report that you actually do live in a Police State. Sorry for the bad news.
On the other hand, if the police are allowed to use reasonable physical force (noun) upon you to take you into custody, and then they take you to trial and all that follows, then you’re living under The Rule Of Law.
It all hinges on lawful ‘force’ being a noun or a verb.
It’s all discussed in endless detail on my weblog at:
The good news is that if you actually read the law carefully and look at the word ‘force’ each time it is used, you’ll probably find that it really is a noun each and every time.
On the other hand, if you look at the use of force guidelines listed above, you only get about half-way into the list and they’ve switched from ‘force’ as a noun, to ‘force’ as a verb.
In my opinion, that’s the basic error right there (when applied to people that may simply be uncooperative).
Again, I’ll stress this – if you’re actively fighting with the police, then they’re certainly allowed to defend themselves and you take you life in your hands. If they want to use a taser in those circumstances, then I really don’t care about the risk that you might die of an unexpected case of Excited Delirium.
But when you look at the police tasering people to force (verb) them comply, I can’t help but wonder why more people don’t see that the line has been crossed.
It all goes back to the meaning of lawful ‘force’.
If it is a noun, then you’ve under The Rule Of Law.
If it is a verb, then you’re in living in a Police State.
It really is as simple as that.
I challenge anyone to find a better, clearer, easier to review in court, line-in-the-sand than that.
Think about it.
Make peace, not war!
Excited Delirium says
Here’s a very good point to consider:
When did ‘compliance’ to police orders become mandatory on pain of death(*), or of excruciating pain (torture)?
(* Except – obviously, and reasonably – in the case of something like ‘Drop that gun!”, then maybe all options are open.)
But – for example – if a cop tells you to get in the back of his police car and you don’t (in a passive manner similar to Ghandi), is the cop:
1) Allowed to kill you?
2) Allowed to induce unnecessary extreme pain?
3) Pick up your sorry ass and shove it and you in the back of his car himself; and if you accidentally bonk your head on the way in, tough shit?
I thought that the answer was #3 and I don’t recall ever getting a memo that said that #1 or #2 were EVER considered to be legal. I’ll repeat that because it’s REALLY important.
I don’t think that options #1 nor #2 are EVER considered to be legal.
If there is a law about obeying a police officer’s orders, and you don’t, then it should result in just ONE MORE CHARGE and ANOTHER 30 DAYS IN JAIL (or whatever). It should never be interpreted as allowing #1 or #2 by the police under any circumstances (except, as mentioned above, “Drop the gun!”)
Did I miss the memo? Or have we all forgotten our Civics lessons from Grade 6?
It appears that even the judges have forgotten this very basic fact.
God help us all.
chester bolyard says
this person must not care about the 200 or more people bein tazed to death..or that it is a torture that not only does physical but mental damange to the person bein tazed…even police officers bein trained has went and sued the tazer manufactures due to the abuse that it caused..and this idiot that complains about bein hit on a daily basis for 20 to 30 years…duh…if that does happen then the officer damn sure cant do his job and should park cars or something…this idiot needs to look up and see what the tucker phone call is …my big question what did these police officers do 10 years ago and should these officers be tasering chidren in school…which they are…tasers are designed to momentarily subdue …not revenge because they didnt do as you said…..or to zap children, old people,100 pound females,when you can use your mind instead…and did you know that if a person has been sprayed with pepper spray or tear gas that it more than doubles the effect because it causes a ground….GO read about torture it will help you to understand what tazers are…
Down Home Texan says
Here’s a suggestion, comply with the police at the time of the incident, (speeding ticket, dunkeness, murder, whatever) then go into thier office the next day and raise hell.
The taser hasn’t changed anything in regards to police actions. If you got stupid with the wrong policeman pre-taser he would have beat the hell out of you with a baton.
At least with the taser you don’t end up with bruises and, possibly, broken bones.
I definitely agree with you, the taser has gotten way out of hand. I wrote a post on it over at my blog – check it out here.
Gene K. says
Way to go John.Your fighting for whats right and doing a great job!!Well done!!.You are 150 % right. Keep up the good work.The world needs more people like you.
Jeff Fargo says
As mentioned earlier by John P. You do not know what you are talking about.
There are people with medical conditions that can die from tasers. Police officers are not doctors and should not be prescribing electric shock to medically compromised patients. In fact they are not even qualified to determine if the person they are trying to arrest or get them to do certain things is healthy enough to withstand a taser current. There are places where police abuse these toys they are given and use them on innocent individuals due to corruption in that country. One never knows when they encounter a corrupt law enforcement or are in such a country.
I’ve seen videos where police use tasers to get people to walk or sit down for traffic situations, this is clearly abuse.
I happen to know somebody that a few months ago finished the sheriff academy and he told me that at the graduation party many new officers over 90% went drinking to a bar while packing guns just because now they could. This is very unprofessional and irresponsible behaviour, and these people are supposed to be protecting the public.
John P. says
You are naive, and these comments are moronic. Clearly you did not take the time to actually watch the videos above. You really don’t even deserve this response.
No one here disputes the necessity of officers rights to defend themselves and enforce the law. However, the videos and stories above are clear cut, indisputable cases of police abuse.
Before you make comments take the time to actually study the materials.
Stop Resisting says
Police officers have the legal right to use a reasonable amount of force on a suspect to overcome resistance, effect an arrest, or in self defense or the defense of others.
Tasers are designed to momentarily immobilize a person while they are subdued. The fact is if people follow officers’ lawful orders and cooperate, they WILL NOT BE TASERED.
Officers deal with peoples problems on a daily basis. How many of you idiots think you can do their job and allow yourself to be hit on a daily basis for a career span of 20-30 years by resisting suspects?
For some reason society thinks that officers need to put up with anything people dish out and cry foul when officers defend themselves. Use a little bit of commonsense. Officers are trained professionals who risk their lives to protect us!!!
Jeffrey Cooper says
In 30 years of combined military and civilian law enforcement I have seen several stupid things law enforcement has done. Mind you, when I was Tasered I was hit with 1500 volts for 5 seconds.
Conscerning the matter with the Flordia University student, there was no reason to taser him because he was asking a question to Sen. Kerry. Sen. Kerry felt uncomfortable answering the question concerning skull and bones.
Or the 11 yr old boy in school because the officer was not properly trained to use the taser. I have see 100’s of officers in our city carring the X26 taser that are not certified, let alone really should not be a police officer in the first place. I have seen Security Officers more qualifed and better trained carring weapons (i.e. asp, 38cal,40cal,45cal, 9mm cal, shotguns, oc/cs spray)
Every time I read one of these taser incidents, I get angrier.
John P. says
Comments are now open again on this post. Sorry if anyone wanted to comment previously, but the page was cached in case of a Digg attack while I slept.
Yes, I do actually sleep on occasion. ;-)
So I just blogged about this on Stuff That Piss me off :-) and I hope a lot of people will follow suit…