Police Encouraged to Restrict Use of Tasers as More Hazards Uncovered
Taser guns were developed to provide a safe and non-lethal means of subduing a potential suspect. An alternative to handguns, Tasers function by attaching two darts into a suspect. The Taser gun sends 50,000 volts of electrical current through those darts, disabling the nerves controlling a suspect’s muscular system. Tasers are designed to work immediately and completely incapacitate a potential suspect.
Since their introduction, law enforcement’s reliance on Tasers has steadily grown. The increasing use of Tasers, sometimes referred to as stun guns, is tied to the common misperception that Tasers are safe. Unfortunately, the truth is that Tasers are not safe and excessive use of them by law enforcement has caused a number of people to suffer from Taser injuries in New York.
Research Reveals Increased Taser Dangers
The number of people hurt and killed by Tasers is growing. Now new research shows that the types of injuries suffered by people who have been struck by Tasers may be even more severe than previously thought.
A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that using Tasers on suspects can cause a mild traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome. According to researchers, these injuries are distinct from the temporary incapacitation associated with Taser use.
Stun gun injuries have most often been associated with ventricular fibrillation, an abnormal and potentially fatal heart arrhythmia or heart rhythm. This could trigger fainting or cardiac arrest.
Certain people are more vulnerable to stun gun injuries. Vulnerable people include:
• Mentally ill individuals
• Pregnant women
• Individuals suffering from osteoporosis
• People under the influence of drugs
• Other pre-existing conditions, including ligament, tendon, muscle or disc damage
The problem for law enforcement is identifying people who may be at risk. Aside from the elderly, children and women in the advanced stages of pregnancy, it is difficult to know whether a suspect has one of these high risk conditions.
Police Should Reign In Use of Tasers
Given the dangers posed by Tasers, many believe that law enforcement have become too dependent on them as means of performing their duties, needlessly causing injury and sometimes even deaths to individuals who have not even had an opportunity to have their day in court.
Law enforcement is increasingly relying upon Tasers as an alternative to using pepper or other chemical sprays, batons and even physical restraint by officers to subdue uncooperative suspects. Tasers were originally developed to be used in place of firearms in situations where deadly force was necessary.
In New York, the law permits the use of deadly force only in those situations where an officer believes it is necessary to prevent the completion of or escape from a violent felony.
Any attempt to commit these crimes is also grounds for the use of deadly force. Deadly force is also authorized to prevent the escape of an individual accused of a felony offense, when that individual is attempting to flee from custody with a firearm or other deadly weapon. Finally, deadly force is permitted where necessary to protect the life of the officer or another.
Non-deadly or non-lethal force is acceptable as long as it is reasonable. The line is drawn at what is necessary to complete the arrest. Tasing individuals in non-violent scenarios such as a traffic stop or failing to follow police instructions may amount to an excessive use of police force.
As more is understood about the potential injuries associated with Taser use, many law enforcement groups are being encouraged to limit their use. A report prepared by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center suggested officers revert to using Tasers for their intended purpose, as an alternative for lethal force. Tasers should not be used to as punishment or to inflict pain on a suspect.
Even when a Taser is not used on a vulnerable person, a person can suffer burns, electrical burns, broken bones, head and brain injuries and even death. Anyone who believes officers may have used excessive force when stopping them and has subsequently suffered an injury should speak to an experienced New York City police abuse attorney to learn about their rights and potential legal remedies.