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
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.