Tasers and Unjustified Use of Force by Police

Police officers who are hesitant about using their firearms will reach for their Tasers to subdue a potentially dangerous suspect; however there is ample controversy over the safety of this alternative weapon and the unjustified use of force by police.

Shot from Behind

A video out of Fairfax, Virginia has gone viral after it shows an officer’s unjustified use of force when he uses a Taser on a suspect without cause. In the video an officer Tasers a man who is fully cooperating with his arrest. Following through with the officer’s request, the man is shown attempting to place his hands on the hood of the officer’s car. Just as his hands touch the car, the officer shoots the man in the back with the Taser’s electrodes. Shocked, emotionally and literally, the man falls to the ground. Unknown to the attending officer, a bystander was videotaping the unjustified use of force with a cellphone. The officer’s needless use of the Taser is currently under investigation.

Better than a bullet

Photo by: cea

Photo by: cea

Tasers, otherwise known as stun guns, were designed to give police officers a safer alternative to control suspects who were resisting arrest or behaving in a threatening manner. Positively, after the introduction of Tasers in the police force, death and injury has plummeted for police officers and those being arrested. This decrease in overall harm may lead many officers to believe that it is tolerable to use Tasers in otherwise avoidable circumstances. Although Tasers may be safer than firearms, they are still extremely dangerous. While they were originally considered to be fairly harmless, recent serious injuries and even deaths by Tasers has made authorities reevaluate the use of this supposedly safer alternative.

A 50,000 volt warning

Tasers that are designed for police departments pack a punch of nearly 50,000 volts. In many cases, as the electrodes from the Taser hit the suspect’s body, the only effect on the suspect is the loss of muscle control. This usually results in the suspect falling to the ground while their muscles twitch and spasm. Unfortunately, in other situations, this deliverance of a high voltage shock can cause cardiac problems such as an irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest, restricted breathing and even death. Although many who have complications from Tasers had a pre-existing condition, that is not the case for everyone.

“Less-lethal” Tasers should be used sparingly

Since Tasers were originally thought to be non-lethal, officers began using them in several situations, oftentimes when not needed. Now that the dangers of Tasers are well known, police departments should be trained on how to distinguish when the use of Tasers are completely essential. A few settings when the use of Tasers should be questioned are:

• When approaching suspects who are unarmed.
• During attempts to arrest someone who appears to be under the influence of drugs, which could make them more susceptible to cardiac or respiratory difficulties.
• Anytime a suspect is cooperating with police.
• During altercations with the elderly who are commonly predisposed to many cardiac conditions.
• When dealing with children!

Beyond the unjustified use of force with Tasers, they should also not be used around anything flammable, during interrogations, when there is not a clear shot of the suspect, or when an innocent bystander is too close to the situation.

Avoid Taser Use

Tasers, firearms, clubs, and other instruments of violence used by police should only be applicable when no other option would suffice. Likewise, those persons in situations where they are dealing with police should educate themselves on the potential side effects of Tasers, and do everything within their control to not become a victim. By fully cooperating with police during a potential arrest or investigation, the likelihood of Tasers being used will hopefully decrease. For questions related to the unjustified use of force regarding Tasers during an arrest, speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Man Fleeing From Police Drives Stolen Vehicle 70 Miles with Only One Tire

A 33 year old Mesa Arizona man was arrested in Beaver Utah for fleeing from police after he drove a stolen vehicle for 70 miles with only tire left.

No plans on stopping

Photo by: Scott Davidson

Photo by: Scott Davidson

33 year old Matthew Hazenberg crossed over the Utah border from Arizona in the stolen vehicle and was immediately pursued by Utah Highway Patrol. When Hazenberg failed to stop for UHP and continued to drive north on I-15, officers laid out spike strips to end the pursuit. Even after having both left tires and the front right tire spiked, Hazenberg continued on I-15 for 70 long, pavement damaging miles. Hazenberg will likely face charges of vehicle theft and fleeing from police.

Repeat offender

This wasn’t Hazenberg’s first run in with the law. In April 2015, Hazenberg was arrested in Moses Lake Washington for fleeing from police after he fled in his vehicle, then from his vehicle, leaving his 8 year old step-daughter alone in the back seat. Moses Lake police were trying to locate the 8 year old, who had been reported missing by her mother when they located Hazenberg’s vehicle and were led in a brief chase. Hazenberg then bolted from the car, and was found later at his home.

Fleeing from police is a felony

Anytime a police officer requests a driver to pull their car over, they are obligated to do so, or they may face a 3rd degree felony. Utah code 41-6a-210 states: “An operator who receives a visual or audible signal from a peace officer to bring the vehicle to a stop may not: operate the vehicle in willful or wanton disregard of the signal so as to interfere with or endanger the operation of any vehicle or person; or attempt to flee or elude a peace officer by vehicle or other means.” For more information on laws regarding stopping a vehicle for police officers, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Assault on a Police Officer by another Officer

Assault on a police officer is against the law for common citizens, but what if the assault is by another officer?

Caught on video

Photo by: JBrazito

Photo by: JBrazito

A Peoria Arizona woman was videotaping police activity across the street from her home when she saw an officer strike another cop with an object in his hand and then again with his foot. The offender in blue was visibly displeased with what the other one was doing and proceeded to commit assault on a police officer. Why he thought this was acceptable behavior is likely due to the fact that the other cop was a dog.

Four legged police force

K-9s go through vigorous training to prepare them in assisting their human partners in tracking drugs or bombs and catching criminals who decide to flee. Additionally, if a police dog dies in the line of duty they receive similar honors as a regular officer. While they aren’t specifically considered a police officer, the laws protecting them are virtually the same.

Assault on a police officer or a police service animal

Photo by: Sean

Photo by: Sean

Attack on a k-9 brings nearly identical charges as those occurred from assault on a police officer. According to Utah code 76-5-1-2.3 and 76-9-3-6:

• It is a class A misdemeanor to assault a peace officer and also to assault a police service animal.
• It is a 3rd degree felony if “the person causes substantial bodily injury” to an officer or to a service animal.

Will the two legged officer face charges?

When assault on a police officer happens at the hands of a fellow cop, the offender is commonly put on suspension during the investigation. The Peoria Arizona officer, although under investigation for his assault on a police officer (dog), is still on the job…alongside his four legged companion. No charges have been made at this time.