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Should Law Enforcement Officers Use Tasers?
Law enforcement began using tasers between 1998 and 2001. Tasers are hand held stun guns used by police officers to subdue subjects by shooting them with these tasers. The taser gun has the ability to deliver a 50,000 volt electrical shock. The result of this electrical shock causes the person to lose muscular control and fall to the ground, enabling the police officer to subdue that person. The police officer can subject a person to these electrical shocks numerous times at the officer’s discretion. What has become the issue with tasers is the number of deaths associated with the use of tasers since its inception. Since June, 2001 to May, 2011, there has been over 460 deaths related to the use of tasers by police officers. Some people who were tasered by police officers were found to be unarmed at the time. The discussion here is are police officers using tasers to protect themselves from harm or are they being used indiscriminately, causing the deaths of many people?
One incident of a taser death took place in December, 2001, when a pregnant woman was tasered after she tried to enter her home after a domestic dispute when the officer had instructed her not to. The officer tasered her in the back and she fell to the ground on her stomach causing her to deliver a stillborn baby two days later. Another incident took place in September, 2004, when a twenty one year old man hit a parked car and was climbing a fence when he was tasered seventeen times in three minutes and later died. The medical examiner in this case concluded that they could not determine if the death was related to being tasered. Then there is the case of a University of Cincinnati student who died from being tasered after balling his fist. These incidents raise the question of whether police officers are using tasers appropriately, and if there needs to be better guidelines implemented as to the situations in which the use of tasers are appropriate.
Police officers have a dangerous job and it is reasonable to allow them to use whatever is available to them to protect themselves from people they need to take into custody. They never know when a person will pull out a weapon and use it on them. Police officers have to take every precaution to make sure they return home to their families every night. I have read many stories of officers being gunned down in the line of duty and it breaks my heart for them and their families. I think we all appreciate the job they do to protect us.
With that being said, there are concerns about the use of tasers. Police officers should not be using tasers on people who are already handcuffed or when they already have sufficient back up to take down a suspect. The taser should be used as a last resort, and then only to subdue the suspect. A suspect should not be continually tasered. I think some officers are being reckless with these tasers and people are losing their lives because of it. The taser should not be used on the elderly, children or pregnant women. At this point, there does not seem to be enough evidence to determine the effects tasers have on people with heart conditions that may or may not be known, and people who have taken drugs prior to being tasered. It does seem to be a correlation between being tasered and medical conditions that people may have. In any case this is an issue that causes great concern to many people, and it is an issue that law enforcement should further review before officers are allowed to use a taser on someone. The public wants and needs officers to protect us, but not with the risk of injury or death to someone who has not yet had their day in court. The use of tasers by police officers should be considered just as seriously as the decision of an officer to use their gun and shoot someone, because the consequence could quite possibly be just as deadly.
Golden Gate University Law Review
The Christian Science Monitor