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. Otteray Scribe,

    Excellent solution. Easily arranged. Even increasing the shock level to the officer when multiple uses within a given time interval.

    If we want to kill the officer, have him wear a cable with a “safety” electrode on the other wrist. Guaranteed heart stoppage. Irreversible fibrillation. Hand to hand current does it everytime. Got it?

    Just a violence crazed nation, or whaddaya say?

  2. This is not an issue that is simple as it looks on the surface.

    Not all police officers are sadistic goons, but there are some that are. It is a form of bigotry or prejudice to tar everyone with the same brush.

    The Taser is most useful for subduing a person who is a physical threat to an officer or bystander. Unfortunately, some officers are using it as an instrument of compliance. The latter are usually the ones who make the news. I am not going to go find the links, since a simple search on YouTube will find plenty of instances of incidents caught on video. One of the most infamous was the incident in the UCLA library.

    There is a psychology of having both a Taser and sidearm on an officer’s belt. The Taser is “non-lethal” while the training for a firearm is that it is not drawn unless the officer is prepared to use deadly force. Given a choice in a situation, the officer would prefer to subdue a suspect than kill them.

    The training is critical. It is my experience that each department has its own culture. Some departments are not as into training and education than others. The old adage that “a fish rots from the head down” applies here. There are some department heads, sheriffs and high ranking officers who regard training as quaint and turn a blind eye to rogue officers. Other departments have a nearly zero tolerance standard for bad behavior of the part of officers.

    I am aware of several departments that refuse to issue Tasers to officers for some of the reasons enumerated here. In talking to those department chiefs, what I hear is that they would rather depend on pepper spray or teaching their officers how to defuse a tense situation with talk and negotiation.

    Finally, it boils down to those officers who use Tasers to enforce compliance rather than protect themselves. As a horrible example, consider the young man who fell from a bridge (video above). He could not get up, so when he did not comply, he was tasered–19 times. Not much different than the incident in Florida recently when a booking officer told the man in a wheel chair to stand up. He told her he could not, so she tipped over his wheelchair and dumped him in the floor. He was injured. The Major at that facility denied they had any problem with, or caused a problem to, a detainee. The Sheriff was unaware of the incident until a reporter showed him a video from his own jail security camera. That booking officer was arrested for felony assault on a disabled person.

    Pepper spray is another issue. Every officer I have ever talked to say they are most cautious about using pepper spray. It is almost guaranteed to get on the officer doing the spraying, especially in a confined space or if downwind from the suspect. A little aversive conditioning makes one cautious.

    Hmmmmm… perhaps the solution is that every time the Taser trigger is pulled, there is an uncomfortable shock to the hand .

  3. “I’m not going to sign it.”

    “You’re under arrest”

    [Officer opens door] . . .

    [broadcasters voice]

    “Give me the fucking paper and I’ll sign it now.”


    WHY NOT? —

    “I’m not going to sign it.”

    “Ma’am, if you don’t sign it, I will have to arrest you. It’s policy. i don’t have a choice”

  4. Why the hell is someone being arrested because they failed to sign a citation? Because it’s Texas? Those are Texas tags on the vehicle. She has already provided her driver’s license. Write on the citation “refused to sign” and hand her the copy. What do you care if she throws it away? Turn in the original paper and let the court set a hearing date. They know where to send the notice.

    And sometimes you follow a violator until it is safe to pull them over.

    And sometimes you let them go if it just too unsafe any other way.

    And you respect your elders.


  5. OK — how about this? If the taser is so safe (disregarding 500 deaths) and the only worry is the casual use of tasers, then every cop who tases someone also gets tased in like manner. It’s safe, right? This ought to get rid of casual use.

  6. DrMike, tell us. Regarding the granny, what should the officer had done? Look how close both of them are to that very busy highway. I could try to manhandle her, of course, but one or both of them could end up in traffic. That woman is responsible for what happened to her.

  7. How is it not less lethal than a bullet? If you shoot the same number of people that have been tazed since 2001 are you telling me that only 500 of them would die? The tazer is a good tool for LEOs to have, as long as it is used properly.

  8. Rick,
    the overuse and misuse of tazers has been highlighted for a long time here on Prof. Turley’s blog and finally a study confirms the obvious. It seems for the 500 people killed by tasers since 2001, it is not less lethal than a bullet. The police are becoming the thugs. Maybe we should all carry razers so that we can be ready to respond when the police pull out their tazers. It is supposed to work with guns according to the NRA, so why wouldn’t it work with everyone packing tazers?

  9. “[W]hen police use any of the tools at their disposal inappropriately, they should be disciplined, prosecuted, whatever, and sunshine (cameras and audio) also help to keep the rogues inline.”

    But they almost never are, and then it is just a slap on the wrist. A properly trained LEO who inappropriately uses a taser resulting in death should be brought up on manslaughter charges. Period.

    Rogues don’t tape themselves and they arrest 3rd party citizens who do. And again, they are hardly ever punished and if so, then it’s a slight reprimand.

  10. Close proximity is a good thing — it keeps cops from being thugs in minor incidents. All that de-escalation training will finally be put to use.

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