Thursday, March 09, 2006

Texas cops use tasers as 'high tech batons,' not substitute for guns

According to an article published (March 8) in Fort Worth Weekly:
in many of [Texas'] law enforcement agencies, officers aren’t waiting for a possible life-or-death crisis before they unholster the Taser. Many law enforcement officers are using the yellow-and-black, pistol-gripped weapon as a first-choice persuader — like a high-tech baton. The president of TASER International told Fort Worth Weekly last month that the stun weapons his company manufactures are “not a disciplinary tool” and shouldn’t be used that way. Nonetheless, records reveal that the weapons, marketed as an alternative to lethal force, are being used in situations where lethal force would almost never be used — as a routine way of gaining compliance from people who are offering no violence or threat.
The Weekly examined thousands of pages of records about Taser use in Texas, discovering sometimes extreme examples like in Wichita County where jail inmates routinely are tasered for having their hands outside their cells. “If Tasers are supposed to replace guns,” asked a man in Austin who received multiple shocks for playing music on the sidewalk, then if the officers hadn’t had Tasers, “would I have been shot for playing classical guitar?” Good question.

39 comments:

Johnny Law said...

This article advances a common misconception. Tasers are NOT alternatives to deadly force. If someone is charging you with a knife or baseball bat or pulls a gun, cops are specifically trained to use their guns instead of the Taser.

This is because a Taser is not always effective. Sometimes the cartridge misfires. Sometimes, the suspect can fight through the charge. Most departments train that Tasers are not meant to be used in deadly force situations.

What Tasers are good for is to keep an incident from going to that point. Now if one cop has a Taser and the other has a gun in case the Taser doesn't work, that can be good but not always.

I believe the Taser is actually on the same level of force as OC spray in some departments. APD has it above OC spray but on about the same level as a baton. I know I would rather be Tased than hit with a baton.

Anonymous said...

Police officers have no problem with using Tasers, on children as young as 8 years old or adults as old as 75.

This is 50,000 volts of electricity folks!

Anonymous said...

The quoted article is off the mark. There is a big difference between the necessity of gaining compliance and using it as a "disciplinary" tool.

When lethal force is necessary, a taser should not be used.

Check some of the larger departments, such as San Diego PD, and their stats on injured arrestees and officers since implementing the taser.

The taser is an excellent tool for law enforcement. It's highly effective and as such its use should be well monitored. That's the real issue here.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So is tasering a jail inmate for having their hands outside the bars "discipline," or "compliance"?

hope said...

"Johnny Law".

Good one. Thank you!

One less anonymous to try to keep up with.

kaptinemo said...

Technology is always a two edged sword. The question, who gets cut by it? All too often, a 'new' technology such as the Taser is hailed by those who indiscriminantly use it against others...until they're on the receiving end:

Another Lawsuit Filed Against Taser – By Police Chief


Taser faces class-action lawsuit;
Police department claims stun gun inadequately tested


Police in 5 states suing taser over injuries

The human body runs on electricity, and a very small amount of it. Overloading that amount artificially is electrocution, whether it comes from a defibrillator...or a Taser. The former can save a life...and it would appear, the latter can be involved in taking it. And it's only a matter of time before that is proven in court beyond any doubt how dangerous that technology can be...and proven by those who thought nothing of wielding it against their fellow citizens so nonchalantly...

hope said...

This woman can teach police to disarm and subdue an assailant with a knife of bat....without using a taser or gun.

http://www.franjoseph.com/

Why don't the police make greater use of marshall arts?

hope said...

How do I make a url clickable?

Michelle said...

So creepy.

Police officers really freak me out. I wish I felt like they cared.

Anonymous said...

"So is tasering a jail inmate for having their hands outside the bars "discipline," or "compliance"?"

Thought you were smarter than that. There is no discipline in jail, only compliance...sometimes after much persuasion.

So about a dozen officers are suing...of more than 100,000. Pretty good stats, even for a racial profilaphobe such as yourself.

Anonymous said...

Why don't the police make greater use of marshall arts?

Hope, it's because effectively using "martial arts" to defend yourself requires you to train using "fine motor skills", rather than "gross motor skills".

It only takes "gross motor skills" to swing a stick or point a gun and squeeze the trigger to protect yourself, you can be taught in a very short time and you won't forget how to do it.

It takes "fine motor skills" to become adequate in a "martial art", which requires you to learn all of the coordinated moves, attacks, defenses and their combinations.

Very little training is required to master a "gross motor skill" activity. Continuous, repetative training is required to master a "fine motor skill" activity.

If a police chief wants his force to use a "martial art" on a daily basis by adding it to the force continuum, then that chief must be prepared to spend thousands of extra dollars per month per officer on training alone.

In addition, it does nothing to promote a suspect's safety. Martial arts won't reduce injuries to suspects or officers. Tasers have.

hope said...

Anonymous at 9:29

Thank you for your response.

Johnny Law said...

I know the anti-Taser types think they are on a rightous crusade but they are going to do a large amount of harm if they get Tasers banned. Tasers are the best thing for police work since handcuffs and the Terry frisk.

They are quick and effective in stopping most suspects. They are much more effective and easier to use than OC spray. The effects last just as long as the charge. They are much less harmful than batons. Their effective use can often stop an incident from escalating into a deadly force encounter.

I wish these folks would just look and the amount officer and suspect injuries drop when Tasers are used by a PD. It just seems common sense to me. If they go away, shootings and injuries will go back up.

Anonymous said...

The Palm Beach Post examined in reviewing three years of Taser use by police from Boca Raton to Fort Pierce, starting in 2001, when the weapon arrived in South Florida.

While some of the reports show that the weapons defused violent confrontations and averted the use of lethal force, the investigation also found:

• One out of every four suspects shocked with Tasers was unarmed, non-violent and not posing an apparent immediate threat.

• While health risks from Taser shocks remain under debate, officers have fired them at the very young and the very old - at least 35 people 16 and younger, including a 13-year-old girl, and seven people 61 or older, including an 86-year-old man were shocked. The Post also found that at least three women claiming to be pregnant were shocked.

• Tasers were fired at more than 425 suspects who were being arrested on misdemeanor charges.

• Departments vary widely in how they record and track Taser use, some requiring little or no explanation for why officers fire the weapon.

"There is no medical evidence to support the cavalier use by some police departments," said Ed Jackson, a spokesman for Amnesty International, which has called for a moratorium on the weapon's use. "Tasers are being used in situations where guns, batons, pepper spray would never be used."

Officers used Tasers to stop people who ran, people who were verbally threatening, people who refused to put their hands behind their backs. They used Tasers on handcuffed people who refused to put their feet in police cars.

"There are less draconian tactics that can and should be used in those situations," said George Kirkham, a former police officer, Florida State University criminology professor. They include reasoning, commands, guiding with open hands and "pressure pain compliance" - pressing sensitive areas, such as the jaw, he said.

From October 2001, when Boca Raton Police added Tasers to their arsenal, to last December, 19 police agencies in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast adopted the stun guns. Their use soared from 82 firings in 2002, to 226 in 2003, to 712 last year.

The increase reflects a nationwide trend, and as use has increased, so have calls for moratoriums on the weapons until more is known about their effects and whether they are being abused.

Chicago officials halted distribution of new Tasers to officers after a 14-year-old suffered a heart attack and another man died within a week.

Sorry this is long, I have a link to more stories like this, not sure how to make a link on here.

Anonymous said...

Save your links. The liberal propoganda regarding tasers is plentiful...not hard to find.

at least 35 people 16 and younger, including a 13-year-old girl, and seven people 61 or older, including an 86-year-old man were shocked

The point? Taser use isn't based on age, it's based on threat. If the 13 year old is swinging a baseball bat, would you prefer officers use a shotgun blast to subdue him/her? What media crap.

Tasers were fired at more than 425 suspects who were being arrested on misdemeanor charges.

Oh, so now it's use should be based on charge severity? Class A misdemeanors are not OK, but State Jail Felonies...fire away? Rediculous.

Officers used Tasers to stop people who ran, people who were verbally threatening...etc.

Would you prefer your son or daughter get tased for non-compliance, or, as the good professor suggests, have their asses whipped? Because that's what "guiding with open hands and "pressure pain compliance" involves.

As is usual, the liberal slant is to outlaw everything for fear that something bad will happen in the future. Rather than make individuals responsible for their actions, Amnesty Int'l and the rest of the sheltered sheep want to take a useful tool away from the police because it's use is increasing, so therefore the sky must be falling.

The taser is the best tool law enforcement has seen in the last 50 years. It has and will continue to save the lives of more and more officers and civilians. Ban it, and more folks will be seriously injured and/or killed.

Johnny Law said...

The funny thing is that if Tasers get banned, the liberal folks will get all upset because police shootings will go up.

I seem to remember the same crazy cycle here in Austin. ACLU types are upset because police supposedly are too violent towards minorities and shoot them too much (not true but that's a whole other post) City gets these expensive Tasers to try to reduce these problems. Suspect injuries go down but for some reason, ACLU decides Tasers must go.

If injuries are down, how can Tasers be so dangerous?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Johnny Law: You're right that tasers are safer in many circumstances and I don't support banning them. But if someone has a heart or other medical condition or is high on coke or meth they can die from the shock, so tasers should be higher up the use of force continuum than buzzing jail inmates who aren't being violent or resisting. And they shouldn't be used for crowd control.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Save your links. The liberal propoganda regarding tasers is plentiful...not hard to find.

What's wrong, you have a problem with truth and facts?

Also I' didn't know we had cowards wearing a gun and a badge, that feel intimidated by 8 and 12 year old children.

03/02/2006 - The family of a boy who was shot by a Miami-Dade County police officer with a Taser in 2004 has filed a federal lawsuit against the county police department, the school district, and several individuals.

The boy, who was 6 years old and in first grade at the time, was shot with a 50,000-volt Taser during a confrontation with police inside the assistant principal's office at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School in Miami.

The lawsuit, which does not identify the boy by name, charges police personnel with lying about what had happened to justify use of the Taser and accuses school officials of negligence.

Attorney David Gordon, who represents the boy's mother and other family members, says his clients want financial compensation and policy changes for the use of Tasers.

"What made this thing so troubling, is that police were just using these weapons at will," Gordon says.

Detective Nelda Fonticiella, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Police Department, said the department would not comment on pending legal action.

Fonticiella said the current policy for Tasers does not prevent their use on children.

Anonymous said...

"Also I' didn't know we had cowards wearing a gun and a badge, that feel intimidated by 8 and 12 year old children."

Well, sometimes the tinfoil hat doesn't want you to "know".

If you believe the use of a taser has to do with intimidation, you haven't actually been reading the articles you're been referencing.

Taser use is about reducing injury to everyone...police and suspects specifically.

Like Johnny Law posts, banning tasers will end up with more suspect injury and death. You want that to happen then ban away.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am missing the point but if this is an issue of safety; whose safety is at issue.

Right now all cops carry guns and the reason tasers are being used is to prevent officers from using guns when they could use tasers. What's next some drug in a dart or how about a net.

Tasers should only be used where an officer can't use a gun. Maybe an airplane and maybe in a jail but the only reason it should be used is in situations where deadly force would be appropriate but not possible.

Love it when cops say that you can't judge the relevance of statistics about cops who use tasers because the statistics represent a small number relative to the widespread use or the people who use them are incident picking.

But then these same cops use statistics with similar credibility problems to justify using them. Artful until the first time one of these cop's kids or cop's relatives gets tasered.

Anonymous said...

Well let's see if this clears things up a little.

All of you that are in favor of Taser guns, let me ask you this. If you were a parent, would you have a problem with Tasering, lets say your own six year old child? Would you have a problem with other parents using this method, instead disciplining the child in other ways?

So go ahead and speak up if you think it's ok to do that to your own child. I love to see how many sadist people agree to this.

Johnny Law said...

Police Use Taser on 6 Year-Old At School


Police in Miami Dade County say they did the right thing when the used a Taser to subdue a six year-old at school

MIAMI, FL -- Police in Miami Dade County say they did the right thing when the used a Taser to subdue a six year-old at school.

The school's principal called 911 after the child broke a picture frame in her office and waved a piece of glass to keep people away from him.

When two Miami-Dade officers arrived the scene the boy had already cut himself under his eye and cut a large gash in his hand.

The officers tried to reason with the boy, but when he started cutting his own leg, they shocked him with a Taser. They then grabbed him to prevent him from hurting himself when he hit the floor and called an ambulance.

Miami Police say the Taser was necessary to prevent the boy from seriously harming himself with the glass.

Today Governor Jeb Bush told the Associated Press he doesn't know the circumstances of why adults couldn't control a six-year-old.

He says he would have to know the facts before commenting on it. But he says that there are
procedures in place to deal with children armed with a weapon on something that could cause harm.

The boy was taken to a nearby hospital and is doing okay. He is now undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

Johnny Law said...

Now that we have read the real facts instead of anti-taser retoric, does it still sound like such a horrible thing?

Sounds fairly reasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

johnny law

Reasponable to taser a six year old?

So why not issue them to teachers for unruly students. Can't spank em but you can taser them.

Reasonable? I as a teacher can't grab that kids arm and take the glass away but I can call the police and let them taser this kid.

I don't know what your standard of reasonsble is but my ordinary man in my ordinary world doesn't need the police or their taser for this.

Haven't we skipped a step here. It's ok to taser but not discipline in school. In that gap between what we can't do and that which we can there seems to be reason.

Before long, the cops will have a new toy called the DRART. It's a gun with a drug that puts you to sleep just like they did the animals on Wild Kingdom. It's safer than electricity and therefore reasonable?

Johnny Law said...

I don't think you are looking at the facts. The kid was actively harming himself. The Taser incapacitated him so that he could be taken under control. Why rush in and risk getting cut yourself when you can safely get the situation under control with the Taser?

You keep trying to make this an issue about discipline of a child. It is obvious that was not the case here. The kid was not tased as punishment. He was tased to prevent him from harming himself further.

I think your bias is preventing you from see the real facts.

Anonymous said...

johnny law:

Quite the contrary, I have no bias.

However under your theory, the cops don't need the taser, the teachers do. If tasering prevents injury to the student, then the need existed long before the teacher called the cops. The kid was cutting him or herself long before the cops arrived.

Facts that drive a need for a taser like this justify whose using it and when. If the teacher didn't have the taser but had an immediate risk of injury and needed a cop to prevent it, then the teacher should have had it if the purpose of the taser is to reduce risk of injury.

A taser isn't deadly force and the teacher would justifiably be using it to defend him or herself.

You sound like you know the law so don't justify a cop using a taser with someone else's reason.

Johnny Law said...

Uhhh huh?

"However under your theory, the cops don't need the taser, the teachers do. If tasering prevents injury to the student, then the need existed long before the teacher called the cops. The kid was cutting him or herself long before the cops arrived."

I am afraid I don't see your point. So what if the kid was cutting himself prior to the arrival of the cops? If he was still doing it when the police arrived, then it really doesn't change things.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Law:

Your point was that the risk of injury to the kid was the reason the cops used the taser and a second reason was the unnecessary risk the glass caused to anyone who tried to stop the kid. This was your argument not mine but the teacher and the kid were at risk long before the police arrived. Duh! That means the teacher had more reason to use the taser than the cops if the reason is risk of injury and the taser is used to prevent that risk.
Think about this. Airline pilots aren't authorized to use tasers but during a flight, they have someone on the plane that has a piece of glass cutting themselves and threatening to cut others. No one has a gun and there is no air marshal on the plane. The pilot has to wait for the plane to land call the police and then let the police taser this guy. The risk wasn't any less when the guy was tasered so if the risk is the test the pilot should have been allowed to use the taser when the risk was greater. Duh!
In other words the measure of the risk is not a valid test. Tasers are dangerous and anyone who thinks it's reasonable to taser a 6 year old kid for any reason is pardon the expression "nuts"

Anonymous said...

The measure of risk is THE valid test. If anyone's child were about to cut himself or another with a piece of glass, I'd prefer the Taser be in the hands of the nearest "trained" adult so that the child could be tased, preventing further serious injury or death to himself or others.

Being tased is not as evil as you think. Doesn't really hurt, just tightens up your muscles for a few seconds and renders you unable to fight. We're not talking about beating children with batons.

Anonymous said...

"The measure of risk is THE valid test. If anyone's child were about to cut himself or another with a piece of glass, I'd prefer the Taser be in the hands of the nearest "trained" adult so that the child could be tased, preventing further serious injury or death to himself or others"

I agree with you but Johnny Law is using the measure to justify second hand responders. Therefore the measure can't be valid if it's applied to the police but valid when it's applied to the people who are most at risk.

I'm not against tasers but I don't like it when people try to justify it for the wrong reasons. A taser has benefit but it has the potential to cause harm. If police use it negligently, hold them accountable in tort or criminal proceedings just like anyone else. That will control it and we won't have to discuss it here.

Anonymous said...

We agree and disagree.

Use by "second hand responders" is necessary because we are currently the end all answer to active disputes, disturbances and situations more dangerous. I don't believe teachers are held to such a high standard of risk in the protection of a third party. The police most certainly are.

True, the risk is greater for your "first responders" specifically for lack of training and proximity. Train them and give them tasers? I agree. It's also why I support the 2nd Amendment as absolute.

Which leads us to where we agree the most. To fix some of these problems, hold all people responsible for their negligent or destructive behavior.

Don't attempt to legislate "safety", punish those who hurt others. Um, kinda like what we should do to the WOD?

celtictexan said...

Your both arguing over something that dosen't matter. What is really under attack here is an officers ability to defend himself. The aclu that is attacking the success of the drug program in Texas is atacking the tazer and for the same reason. Becuase it gets used on more minorities than white's. They will attack anything that can't show perfectly proportional racial numbers.

celtictexan said...

michelle siad

So creepy.

Police officers really freak me out. I wish I felt like they cared.

8:50 PM

I'll bet they wish more of the public cared.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@celtictexan: who besides you brought race into the discussion? The issue surrounding tasers is basically where should it be on the use of force continuum? People, including police, might disagree in good faith, but any racial tinge to the argument you're seeing stems from your own baggage, not anything you've read in this post.

I'm absolutely for taser use when the alternative is shooting somebody down in the street or when it avoids serious risk to the officer. But I think they should be fairly high up the use of force continuum - for my money above the baton, though others may disagree - because of the possibility of death from unknown risk factors. It certainly should not used merely to gain "compliance" from those already in custody, IMO, particularly in jail settings.

Anonymous said...

The taser is NOT a substitute for deadly force.

When confronted with deadly force, deadly force is necessary and SHOULD be used.

The taser falls somewhere below that. The taser is a great substitute for batons as it causes less injury to both officers and suspects than does the baton.

The taser is also a great compliance tool, and should be used as such, even in prison.

If Scott Henson were a jailer, and had a convicted violent offender refusing to obey orders, and that offender, after knowing the rules and standard operating procedure of taser use for not following orders, and having been warned repeatedly that a taser was about to be deployed, continued to refuse to obey a lawful order, then Scott Henson could only deduce that the offender was going to attempt to combat Scott Henson, possibly causing Scott Henson serious bodily injury. Therefore, Scott Henson would be completely justified in using the taser to gain compliance of this offender, "already in custody in a jail setting".

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The example in jails wasn't when offenders were intending to combat the jailers, it was when inmates had their hands outside the cells. You're taking extreme circumstances when violence is involved and using it to justify taser use in nonviolent scenarios. That's wrong no matter how many times you repeat my name and claim it's not.

Also, in every jurisdiction where they're implemented tasers are marketed as an alternative to deadly force - you saying that's not what they're for really doesn't change that that's what the public's been told by police department after police department when they're asking for money for these things. If the public knew police DIDN'T intend to reduce gunplay and only wanted to use tasers in otherwise nonviolent situations for "compliance," I don't think they'd support their use as widely.

Anonymous said...

"If the public knew police DIDN'T intend to reduce gunplay and only wanted to use tasers in otherwise nonviolent situations for "compliance," I don't think they'd support their use as widely."

Nobody said "only...in nonviolent situations". You're using fallacy to make your point. Using the taser does reduce "gunplay", but we're talking a specific minority of encounters. It is still not a substitute for deadly force confrontations. And there are many, many more encounters where a gun wouldn't be used, but force would...force with fists, batons, pepper spray, etc. The point is that the taser is a better alternative, for both officer and suspect.

Rick said...

Dear little johnny law. Just one question. Do you have your High School transcript or GED available. The readers might find either one amusing as well as revealing. I've seen the injuries in the ER and given your distinctive lack of compassion, it might be fair for you to waddle out to your patrol car and scrape the "To Serve and Protect" decal off. Sincerely, Rick M.D.

Anonymous said...

Cops use TASERS because it's FUN.

Mouthing off or otherwise "dissing" a cop makes them want to PUNISH you, and TASER is a great punishment for disrespect.

Now in a society of laws, PUNISHMENT is supposed to be delivered by a judge, after a trial, and hopefully after a conviction.

But doggone it, mouthing off or inconveniencing a cop just isn't a crime in way too many jurisdictions.

No problem. The cops can handle that with their handy electro-toy.

They haven't protected anybody, they're not serving anybody, but dang it feels good to give that jerk a shock! Take that, smart-mouth!

Here's a joke for ya -

Q: How many cops does it take to arrest an unarmed, college student, John Kerry heckler?

A: Five! As long as at least one of 'em has a TASER! Without a TASER, they'd probably have to shoot him or call in the National Guard!