Dont Taze Kill Me, Bro: New Study Refutes Claim That Tasers Are “Non-Lethal”

The ACLU has posted an interesting study that could have profound implications for criminal and torts cases involving injuries or deaths from tasers. We have been following such cases for years (here and here and here and here and here) now a study published by the American Heart Association refutes the claim that tasers are “nonlethal.” The AHA study shows that a rising number of people are dying after being hit by the 50,000 volt shocks (followed by 100 microsecond pulses of 1,200 volts). Since 2001, more than 500 people in the United States have died after being hit by police tasers.

A study appearing in the AHA’s Circulation Journal confirms the lethal record of tasers. It also details how they have been used against children, pregnant women and the mentally ill. As we have discussed, police are now using tasers with little restraint or judgment in many cases despite the danger of cardiac arrest and death.

Despite the strong evidence of the lethal qualities of tasers, police departments and the industry continue to push their use. My concern is that courts will find it increasingly difficult to reverse this trend. As a result, this high-level of injury will be treated as reasonable force in common confrontations with police.

Here is the original study: AHA Study

52 thoughts on “Dont <del datetime="2012-05-04T10:16:20+00:00">Taze</del> Kill Me, Bro: New Study Refutes Claim That Tasers Are “Non-Lethal””

  1. I don’t even think tasers should be used for compliance when there is otherwise no violence involved. Officers should use their voices and gestures for that.

    Using a taser should be likened to slapping someone very hard across the face, or perhaps like a football tackle. If an officer would not do that for whatever action he is trying to elicit, then he should not use a taser.

    Such an analogy should be used in administrative review and training, as well as under civil rights lawsuits against such actions.
    i.e., Did the plaintiff/perp’s actions warrant being strongly slapped across the face or tackled? If not then the officer is in the wrong.
    This would obviate questions of appropriateness where for example someone refuses to sign a ticket (which should be protected activity anyway).

    I would also like to see the statistics on deaths due to gun use of officers on suspects for comparison purposes.

  2. Darren,

    I think many can agree that when used in specific instances, the taser can be effective tool for law enforcment. It’s the overuse that causes, at least for me, the problem with the taser. It’s the officers that just use it as an easy way out. A well reasoned officer knows when to use force and how much to apply. Obviously, you seem like the sort that understands that difference and wouldn’t be using the taser like the awful examples we’ve talked about.

    Since you’re an officer, I would be curious to know what you think would be the appropriate way to stop officers from using it like a secuirty blanket. Do you think there are ways to prevent overuse?

  3. My 50,000 volts on the subject?

    I will tell you from experience the Taser is probably the best tool that has been issued to officers since the portable radio. Think I am a nut? Consider this.

    My Patrol Beat was 600 square miles in area. Yes, 20 sections by 30 sections. Often it was the case where after two local city guys went home at night and WSP was not out my backup was 45 minutes code 3 away. You get into that situation and self reliance is paramount. Now, put yourself against an angry, combative, drunk or methie and see how you fare. Each one of us has his limit. I’ve seen people pepper-sprayed, hit multiple times with a PR-24, kicked in the cajones, and still keep at it. If they succeed in disarming you, the FBI Statistics are that 90% of the time the offender will shoot you. Yes, you lose your sidearm, 90% likely you will see your maker. That is reality. Because of this the training is, if you are about to lose consciousness or give out after being beaten or you are assaulted by two or more persons at once, the firearm is authorized. It is because of the disarming and dying issue. Preventing this brinkmanship is what the Taser offers. I’ve seen both suspect and deputy bloody each other up and in the end, as is usually the case ,the bad guy went to the clink and the deputy went home. So why should so much injury take place when there exests the means to stop it now.

    What is better, to have to go until someone risks getting killed or shutting it down now. The Taser is the quintessential “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Meaning the more muscle mass they possess, the harder the Taser kickes them due to larger muscle mass locking them up. It also works good against vicious dogs rather than using a shotgun on them.

    The department first issued one to me back in 2006. I’ve only deployed it against a person three times.. One who escaped custody, and the other two attacked me, one of them needed to be lit up twice. I have been tased in training, and yes it is a extraordinary in its pain and cramping.

    Now for the other side. I know several LEO’s who go right for the Taser at the drop of a hat. I disagree with that and take somewhat of a dim view of those who do. We didn’t have those back in 84 when I started and still managed to get most people in jail, but those times were not always good. Personally if a new deputy or officer needs to use the Taser as a security blanket they are not cut out for the job.

    I also disagree to a point about using a Taser as a compliance tool. Using it as a compliance tool, it’s usually best to take the dart cartridge out and “Drive Stun” the person, meaning it is used like an old fashion stun gun where just contacts are used and not the darts that fly out with wires attached. The jolt is more localised and it is good for those who are grabbing on to things or refusing to let go of someone. Also, pulling out a Taser and pointing the laser beam at them ofen elicits de-escalation in the suspect becuse they know what it means to get lit up.

    Many departments list the Taser as between strikes, pain complaince holds, and impact weaons. Formerly, the taser was between impact weapons and deadly force. Personally, I think it is level with impact weapon and shoud be considered deadly force on Preggers women and anyone over 60.

    It really boils down to this. 95% of people obey / comply just by using your presence, words. 4 percent require minor to moderate use of force and in my book 1% benefit from aTasing a trivial amount want the best service a Glock 17 can provide.

    Well, my thoughts re that it should not be the case where we lose the ability to carry Tasers because they are very useful. But by the same time we cannot get Officers to just make it quick and easy and Tase me Bro, Over use always causes problems

  4. Well, it all boils down to whether a taser is lethal. For those that believe that it is not lethal then bring in grandma and we will try it out on her. Maybe we need some taser traps to make our point. Police Chief’s grandma goes to open the trash can and TASER. Mayor’s wife is putting the putter and bingo, its a fake club, its a taser. If it is lethal schmuckos you dont taser someone unless you have the right to kill them.

  5. Good point, Otteray Scribe! In Harford County, Maryland, in 2009, police picked up a homeless man (veteran, NO CRIMINAL HISTORY), and brought him in. In the morning, before court (“Trespassing”), they tasered him to death. When the lawyer hired by his family sued the Detention Center for wrongful death (42 USC 1983), they pretended not to know which officers (three of them) were “involved” in the “incident.” WHAT, no cameras?

  6. Otteray Scribe @ May 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Good message; appreciate your comments. And the course correction.

    In this limited venue folks(guilty!) throw out their anecdotes as cryptic haymakers to win points on subjects that we all (hopefully) understand require nuanced treatment.

    Some folks, however, don’t do nuance; such folks are unfit to make or implement policies affecting the general welfare of others or requiring interpersonal relations..

  7. raff, Not long ago, I recall reading about a department that had a very large number of Taser use incidents. After several lawsuits, they signed a consent decree ordering them to put microcameras on all Tasers. The camera and memory unit cost about $440 per Taser. Then a funny thing happened. Taser use dropped to zero. Nada. Zilch. When the cameras were in place, officers seemed to develop stage fright at the idea of being on candid camera.

  8. OS,
    I think if you put an electrode down the trousers of every officer and tell him or her that when you taze someone, the shock will be also felt “elsewhere”, we wouldn’t see so many deaths and injuries.

  9. OS said exactly the problem. Using the taser to enforce compliance is wrong.

    I, personally, would not have a officer use a taser on an old woman. Hit her with a taser because he’s scared on the little old lady? That’s just stupid.

Comments are closed.