It’s been more than four years since a University of Florida student gained infamy with four immortal words: “Don’t tase me, bro!” before being tasered by university police. Yet, the controversy over allegedly Taser-happy police lives on.
A new study on police overuse of Tasers and news media reports investigating the stun gun’s use are keeping Scottsdale’s TASER International Inc. under the spotlight, reports CBS News.
A recently-released National Institute of Justice study found that some police are resorting to their Tasers to subdue suspects “way too fast.” The report spurred investigations by news programs “60 Minutes” and “Nightline” into the use of the stun guns by officers.
About 16,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. reportedly use Tasers in their enforcement efforts, and 500,000 officers carry the stun gun in their tool bets. Proponents of the tool say "it's changed the face of police work forever," according to Marcus Martin, the Las Vegas Police Department's Taser trainer.
Critics counter that the Taser is a dangerous tool that needs to be used cautiously and wisely, which they allege officers have not been doing. Out of the nearly one and a half million suspects that have been tazed, 485 suspects have died afterwards, according to CBS. Whether this number is positive or negative depends on which side of the Taser controversy you're on.
Police are allowed to use reasonable force when making arrests, which is determined by the surrounding facts and circumstances of the situation. If the amount of force used is found to be reasonable, it doesn't matter what the officer's intentions were. However, cases against police officers can be difficult since they may be immune from suit.
Often, victims will sue Taser itself to recoup damages. The company has prided itself on the high amount of dismissals of these lawsuits, but plaintiffs have sometimes prevailed. The most notable of which was a $10 million award to the family of a 33-year-old Las Vegas man who died after being tazed.
Despite the controversy, Arizona seems to have embraced the successful stun gun manufacturer and its controversial product. The Grand Canyon State even considered making the Taser gun the official firearm of Arizona.
- Find a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- '60 Minutes,' 'Nightline' Doing Stories on Police Use of Taser Stun Guns (Phoenix Business Journal)
- Police Misconduct and Civil Rights (FindLaw)
- Ask a question about Tasers now (FindLaw's Answers)