How Dangerous are Tasers?

Tasers are often thought of as non-lethal alternatives to firearms. Police often use them when dealing with a less than cooperative suspect. The recent death of a young teen has caused many to question the safety of tasers. Officers in Michigan tasered the young man in self-defense, when he attempted to fight them off. When police saw how the young man’s body reacted to the taser, they sought medical care for him, but it was too late. From the little information known about the case thus far, it appears as though officers were justified in their use of the taser, and took appropriate measures when they realized that the young man was seriously hurt. This case raises the question of what makes tasers so dangerous? Is it that tasers are inherently unsafe? or is that officers are not using them correctly? It is probably a combination of the two.

The Michigan case is not the first instance where a suspect died after being tasered. However, most of the time tasers do not cause serious injury. Scarring, neck, and eye injuries occur only sometimes. When a suspect is injured after being tasered, it usually is not caused by the instrument itself, rather the injury results when the person falls to the ground after experiencing the electric shock. Sometimes the injury is not physical at all. In 2004, UCLA police tasered an Iranian- American student. The student did not have his school ID while in the library. He was asked to leave, but he refused. The police tasered him even though the student did not pose a threat. The incident caused him great humiliation. It is speculated that the police reacted with the taser because of heightened anxiety about terrorism. Even if that were the case, their actions were still inappropriate.

Tasers are not per se excessive force. The court in Draper v. Reynolds relied on three factors to determine that use of a taser on a hostile truck driver did not amount to excessive force (Ethical Constraints on Taser use by Police). The use of the taser was acceptable because:

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 9:23 am Comments Off on How Dangerous are Tasers?