Taser Deaths Concerning

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Written by epublius
Sunday, 21 June 2009 14:33

Recently a 32-year-old Utah man died from being Tasered [1]. This man was having a mental breakdown and his wife called the police for help. The officer that responded apparently felt the Taser was his only method of getting the situation under control. This decision has killed a man, left his wife a widow, and has two children without a father. The damage to his family will last a lifetime.

I fully recognize that law enforcement has a difficult job and has to often deal with dangerous people and situations. With that said the procedures that are being taught to these officers needs to be reviewed.

Attempting to research this issue, I was unable to determine how many people have died as a result of being Tasered. The New York Daily Record [2] reported in February this year the following.

A recent research study, conducted by Dr. William P. Bozeman of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., looked at more than 1,200 cases of Taser use from six police departments across the country from 2005 to 2008.

In those cases, Bozeman found that an overwhelming majority of the people shocked did not suffer serious injuries.

In contrast, Amnesty International's latest report on Tasers, titled, "USA: Less Than Lethal?" links 334 deaths to Taser use between the years 2001 and 2008.”

I must first note that the information referred to in the Wake Forest study in this article is incorrect.

The two-year study (2005-2007) conducted by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center [3] only involved 962 subjects and only 2 deaths were reported, but they were determined not to be related to the use of the Taser. The problem with this study is there are too many variables to rely on this data. With an increasing number of police departments using these devices in more and more situations, the outcome has changed.

Recently, a 72-year-old grandmother was Tasered during a traffic stop. In this case, video showed that she was difficult and uncooperative, however the officer chose to Taser her instead of physically subduing the women. After Tasering the women, the officer demanded her to put her hands behind her back which she was clearly unable to do.

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The belief seems to be that attempting to physically apprehend a suspect could cause injury. Therefore, Tasering is viewed as a safer alternative. This logic is wrong. Tasers can kill. Injuries like broken bones will heal.

Ultimately, use of Tasers is playing “Russian Roulette” with peoples lives. The United States Justice Department report on Tasers states, “There is no medical evidence to suggest that exposure to a Conductive Energy Device produces sufficient metabolic or physiologic effects to produce abnormal cardiac rhythms in normal, healthy adults [4].” The report goes on to give contributing factors, which could exist in anyone and result in their death. Even the report from Wakefield stated the devices are not risk free.

I think that the problem we are facing is two-fold. Law enforcement agencies have the belief that Tasers are safer alternative to physical confrontations. Therefore, they are being used in many more situations, even in situations where it is not warranted.


I also suspect that police departments are using this technology instead of spending money on proper training. The case of the 72-year-old grandmother is a great example. A properly trained officer should have been able to handle this woman without resorting to a Taser.

They sell the Taser as a less- lethal weapon, but it still can be lethal. If officers used their gun to wound people in different situations and only a few died, there would be a public outrage.

Tasers certainly have their place, but they should not be used as a cheaper alternative to training. I think training is extremely important both in the art of physical confrontation, and in the use of Tasers. Only when there is a legitimate threat is using a Taser justified. Responding to an unarmed naked man who is having a mental breakdown on a Utah highway is not.

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