In other words, Austin police are WAY overusing Tasers in confrontations with the public, and not only in cases where they let officers avoid shooting people. Tasers have become officers' first resort instead of their last. That's evidence, IMO, of inadequate policies and training.
Tasers have only ever been tested on healthy people, but more than 100 folks nationally have died after being attacked with one, often when they have pre-existing medical conditions or have been using amphetamines. A large number of Tasering incidents occur in Austin because of mere "verbal noncompliance," meaning the officer issued an order and someone didn't immediately comply. Elsewhere Tasers' problems are bubbling to the surface despite the company's claims that pumping 50,000 volts through the human body is perfectly safe. Wrote Plohetski:
Last month, the U.S. bureaus of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection adopted a ban on stun guns for their 20,000 agents and officers, largely because of questions about their safety.Facing growing criticism over implementing unproven technology on a grand scale, Austin Police Chief Stan Knee unveiled new restrictions on officers' Taser use:
Amnesty International says that at least 100 people have died after they were shocked by Tasers.
Suspects in other Texas cities have died in recent months after receiving Taser shocks.
A Midland man died last week after police in Fort Worth shocked him after he trespassed, resisted police and tried to punch an off-duty officer who was assisting in his arrest.
According to published reports, officers did not summon an ambulance after the man said he was having trouble breathing, but called for one after his problems continued.
- Tasers can't be used on misdemeanor suspects.
- Handcuffed prisoners can't be Tasered (something officers resisted)
- Officers can no longer Taser fleeing suspects unless they're armed.
The Central Texas chapter of the ACLU, Amnesty International and Austin Spokes, a community group concerned with Tasers, held a press conference after Knee's briefing to air concerns.
"People could be on some kind heart medication that raises their heartbeat rate, and being Tased would be all it takes to put them over," said Debbie Russell, an ACLU board member. "There is a lack of medical information, and there is a lack of information on how they are being used and who they are using them on."At the end of the day I think Tasers have a place on the police use of force continuum, but once the real dangers of the technology are sorted out, I think that place will be just before officers fire their service weapon, not the first time a suspect gives them any backtalk, which appears to be the current Tasering standard at APD.
Ed Jackson, a spokesman for Amnesty International who was at the council meeting, said, "It is a patently bad idea to use the public as guinea pigs for unproven technology."