Academic journal article Journal of Law and Health

Stunning Trends in Shocking Crimes: A Comprehensive Analysis of Taser Weapons

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Health

Stunning Trends in Shocking Crimes: A Comprehensive Analysis of Taser Weapons

Article excerpt

   I. INTRODUCTION
  II. BACKGROUND
      A. History
      B. Taser International
      C. Taser Mechanics
      D. Effects of Taser
      E. Medical Research and Findings
 III. USE-OF-FORCE GUIDELINES AND DEPLOYMENT
      POLICIES
      A. Use-of-Force Continuum
      B. Training Requirements
      C. Safety Procedures
 IV.  TASER REGULATIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
      A. Federal Level
      B. State and Local Level
  V.  TASERS AND-OF-FORCE LIABILITY
      A. 42 U.S.C. [section] 1983--Qualified Immunity
      B. Fourth Amendment Cases
      C. Eighth Amendment Cases
 VI. TASER DEBATE: CONTROVERSY AND CONCERNS
     OVER THE SAFETY OF TASERS
     A. General Background
     B. In-Custody Deaths
     C. Lack of Regulation and Policy
     D. Inadequate Independent Research
     E. Taser International's Rebuttal
        1. Taser: The Safest, Most Effective
           Non-Lethal Weapon
        2. Research and Independent Reviews:
           Reaffirm Safety
        3. In-Custody Deaths: No Significant
           Relationship
        4. Law Enforcement: Best Position To
          Determine Policies
 VII. WHAT ROLE SHOULD TASERS HAVE IN LAW
      ENFORCEMENT?: SOME RECOMMENDATIONS
      A. Detailed Use-of-Force Policies
      B. Improve Training
      C. Create National Standards
      D. Additional Independent Research
VIII. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

In 2001, Westminster, Colorado police officers were dispatched to the home of a suicidal thirteen year-old girl who had barricaded herself in a bathroom. (1) The young girl was mutilating her wrist with two butcher knives. (2) When police officers forced their way into the bathroom, the emotionally disturbed girl charged at them with the two butcher knives while screaming, "Kill me! Kill me!." One of the officers deployed a Taser M26, a hand held conductive energy weapon, which fires two barbed darts up to a distance of thirty-five feet that then deliver an electric shock of 50,000 volts. (3) The officer's Taser shot hit the girl and immediately and safely incapacitated her. (4) All of the police officers at the incident concurred, "without the Taser, we would have had to use lethal force" (5)

This is just one of several stories of Tasers safely incapacitating dangerous, aggressive, or high-risk individuals. (6) Due to this capability of subduing individuals without harming the officer or suspect, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are purchasing and implementing Tasers. Currently, over 8000 of the 18,000 law enforcement and correctional agencies in the United States are testing or using Tasers. (7) Marketed as one of "the safest and most effective use-of-force options available," police departments deploying Tasers claim that they reduce injury rates to officers and suspects, lower liability risk, and improve community security by providing a non-lethal (8) alternative to the use of impact weapons or firearms. (9)

The recent widespread use of Tasers, however, has not been without controversy. There remain concerns over health risks, the possibility of abuse, the lack of regulation, and the overall safety of Tasers. Recently, media (10) and human rights (11) organizations, such as Amnesty International, have released reports of more than 100 people since 2001 dying after receiving Taser shocks. Although coroners have attributed the majority of the deaths to other factors, such as drug use, in at least five of the cases, coroners found Tasers to be a contributory factor. (12) In addition to reports of fatalities, there have been reported cases of police officers deploying Tasers on unarmed, non-compliant, or disturbed individuals who do not pose a threat to themselves or others. (13) Some of these individuals include children, elderly, and pregnant women. (14)

This note, provides a comprehensive medical, legal, and policy analysis of Tasers. As part of this analysis, the benefits and potential risks of Tasers are weighed to determine what role the weapon should have in law enforcement and American society. …

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