ACLU: New York is a Taser-Happy State


A new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) suggests something many of us could have guessed: every situation which involves a citizen and a cop should not end in a Tasering of the former. Nor are cops trying their hardest to avoid using this usually non-lethal, but still nasty weapon.

The report, according to the NYCU's website looked at:

851 Taser incident reports from eight police departments across the state as well as 10 departments' policies and guidelines for using the weapons, which deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity and have caused the deaths of more than a dozen New Yorkers in recent years.

Here are a few of the more damning conclusions:

  • Fifteen percent of incident reports indicated clearly inappropriate Taser use, such as officers shocking people who were already handcuffed or restrained.
  • Only 15 percent of documented Taser incidents involved people who were armed or who were thought to be armed, belying the myth that Tasers are most frequently used as an alternative to deadly force.
  • In 75 percent of incidents, no verbal warnings were reported, despite expert recommendations that verbal warnings precede Taser firings.
  • 40 percent of the Taser incidents analyzed involved at-risk subjects, such as children, the elderly, the visibly infirm and individuals who are seriously intoxicated or mentally ill.

Plenty more depressing bullet points here. The NYCU also concluded that record-keeping was incredibly lax in incidents of Taser use and that most police in the state—besides the NYPD—are following TASER International guidelines, not international law enforcement guidelines for use.

Link by way of this Gawker post, which points to plenty of dubious Taser incidents.

Reason on police and on Tasers, particularly their part in the death of Californian Allen Kephart, after he was pulled over by police. That grim story is outlined in the Reason.tv video below. (Paul Detrick also recently noted an October 19 decision by the 9th Circuit Court about Tasers and excessive force which has potential ramifications for Kephart's parents' lawsuit.)