Police

ACLU: New York is a Taser-Happy State

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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.)

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  1. I want to know how many Tasering incidents missed the intended target.

    1. I’m gonna say none, at least on paper. I’d bet that everyone hit was at least charged with “disorderly conduct” afterwards.

  2. If you give thugs an electric equivalent to a baton, and then don’t treat its use as the same as a baton because it doesn’t leave marks, they will use the new tool without reservation. This should have been obvious to anyone.

    1. Just issue cops a pillowcase full of sweet Valencia oranges. It’ll show ’em who’s boss, and they don’t leave a bruise.

      1. Is that how pimps in Florida do things?

      2. +1 for Family Guy reference.

    2. I’ve seen taser burns. They’re quite distinctive.

    3. which electric equivalent is this?

      1 ) tasers leave marks (whether in drive stun or dart mode

      2) tasers are generally not at the same place in the UOF spectrum as a baton. baton is usually higher, often quite significantly so.

      fwiw, i’ve been tased twice. i would not volunteer to get struck with a baton.

  3. Those girls are as cute as puppies.

    1. Why I could ‘tase’ them all night!

    2. Just a couple of prick tasers, if you ask me.

  4. Tasers are primarily used as compliance devices.

    1. When used as advertised. They can also be used for cruelty.

      1. so can a pencil. or a fist. or a handcuff.

        the primary way tasers are effective ime is that officers are able to gain compliance WITHOUT firing them.

        i have never personally fired my taser at anybody (in about 6+ yrs of carrying), but have seen them fired several times.

        however, for every time i have seen a taser fired, i have seen AT LEAST 1/2 dozen incidents where the display of the taser and warning given was enough to gain compliance without it actually having to be fired.

        i’ve been tased twice. it’s not fun. people who are rational enough to weigh their options (leaving out many sober people, and an even greater # of drunk, high, and EDP’s) will often opt not to resist if they know they will get tased if they do so. they know that they are unlikely to be able to overcome it (vs. a wrestling match with the cop where they have a higher chance of winning, especially considering how fucking out of shape many cops are) , and that it doesn’t feel good.

        1. i have seen AT LEAST 1/2 dozen incidents where the display of the taser and warning given was enough to gain compliance without it actually having to be fired.

          Except they apparently don’t warn people very often, since then they might not get to use it.

          In 75 percent of incidents, no verbal warnings were reported, despite expert recommendations that verbal warnings precede Taser firings.

          1. verbal warnings does not mean NO warning was given. when the taser is drawn and the person is told to comply, he can see damn well that if he doesn’t comply, he may get tased

            this is the difference between reading for content and reading for what you want to see.

            1. So now you know for a fact that the defition of “verbal warning” used by the ACLU doesn’t include that? Cite please.

              This is the difference between reading for content and being a disingenuous authoritarian apologist.

              1. neither of us knows for a fact what the fuck the ACLU considers a verbal warning, but most rational people consider a verbal warning to mean a warning given verbally.

                if you have a taser pointed at you, a verbal warning is nice, but it’s pretty clear that if you do not comply, you will get tased.

                and you know it

                1. So, you’re now not only assuming that the ACLU has a strict definition of “verbal warning”, you’re also assuming that all those shocked were given time to register the deployment and comply before the trigger was pulled? Any other baseless assumptions you want make to bolster your case?

                  1. i’m assuming that a verbal warnign means a warning given verbally (a shocking assumption i know) and that generally speaking, having a taser – which is only effective within a matter of a few yards and has a bright red shiny thing emitting from it, means that USUALLY when people have a taser pointed at them, they are aware of it

                    i can also state from street experience, that (n=a lot) this is usually what happens

                    again, verbal warnings are nice and usually preferable, but if your point is that IF no verbal warning was given, a person was not given notice and/or ample opportunity to comply, that is an assumption made without sufficient reason

                    hth

                    1. i’m assuming that a verbal warnign means a warning given verbally (a shocking assumption i know)

                      You said earlier that this was a warning:
                      verbal warnings does not mean NO warning was given. when the taser is drawn and the person is told to comply, he can see damn well that if he doesn’t comply, he may get tased

                      If that’s a warning which uses vocalization (i.e. “get on the ground”), then it’s not in any way out of bounds to say it’s a verbal warning. As you said, neither of us knows for certain, but you base your objections upon this as if you do know.

                      You said you’ve witnessed compliance gained “half a dozen times”. I can easily round up more than 6 videos of cops drawing and using tasers in the same motion. Shit, I’ve even witnessed one used that way personally.

                      Face it, your entire objection to this point is built upon baseless assumptions.

  5. Just shocking.
    No more gamboling until the collapse.
    Theorem THX1138

  6. I’ll answer the important question. From left to right: Probably. Definitely.

    1. I don’t know whether you’re talking about fuckability or taseability. Either way, I concur.

      1. Using photos of men in my blog posts from now on, thanks for the tip.

        1. Ew, gross. No one likes to look at men, not even gay men. Sick.

        2. Also, the correct threat was, “Using photos of Henry Waxman in my blog posts from now on, thanks for the tip.” kthxbye

          1. Do it, Lucy! Waxman pics every time!

      2. Way to go, Jeff! You fucking ruined it for everybody.

        But I , um, was talking about, uh, taserability. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I wrote it because I, um, didnt like the way they use “taser” instead of “taze” as the correct verb.

        And I said probably for the one on the left because she looks more muslim, and I don’t want to offend the sensibilities of our Mohammaden friends, while the one on the right is safe to say definitely because she looks white enough to be harmless.

        Lucy, are you buying this?

        1. So, I think I’ve figured out why all the Reason interns only last one term.

          1. Hey!

            I’m not an intern!

            (Anymore.)

        2. I came here to protest the use of “taser” as the verb form. “Taze” is a much better formulation. But I would also support “tase” as “lase” should be the verb form of using a laser on something.

          1. TASE is Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Muslims may already be using “tase” as a verb for something else.

            The verb is really TASERing anyway since it’s an acronym.

    2. Both. Gives ’em something to snuggle with after, too.

  7. A friend of mine is the daughter of a now retired homicide detective. He explained the problem with tasers this way, in the old days most cops wanted to avoid confrontation because, even with the baton, there was a chance that if it became physical he was going to get hurt a little too. Most cops don’t want to indiscriminatley riddle people with bullets, because, even though they’ll probably not get into any trouble for gunning down a person, it still troubles the conscience. The taser gives them the opportunity to avoid any physical damage themselves and not have the guilt of blowing someone’s head off. It adds a new layer to the discrepancy of power between the police and their potential victims.

    1. That was the whole fucking point of the invention.

      1. no, the whole point was to offer a force alternative that was usable at a greater distance than strikes, etc., that is highly effective, and that can incapacitate even a well trained assailant.

        1. That is revised history. You know damn well how these were sold to the public by both taser and the police departments. That was either the point or taser and the police departments were lying to the public. Which was it?

          1. no, it’s not revised history. the “taser as alternative to a gun” (a gun is what you use with an armed assailant usually) is the canard taser opponents use so they can say “no weapon was present, so the taser shouldn’t have been used” etc.

            tasers are NOT gun substitutes and they are generally used on unarmed suspects

            when there are multiple officers present, sometimes they can be used on armed suspects, since officers can have lethal AND less lethal displayed and have more force options

            that’s a huge + and one of the ways tasers can save lives

            1. So policeone.com is a taser opponent?

              http://www.policeone.com/polic…..dly-Force/

              And here’s another. The SFPD. They must be anti-taser too, right?

              http://policelink.monster.com/…..ser-debate

              There are plenty more, but I can only link 2 due to the spam filter. There is no way you could have forgotten all the press in the early aughts from police departments citing the need for tasers as an alternative to deadly force. You are once again exposed as being a disingenuous authoritarian.

              1. you are once again being a moron. i read the first article. in no way did it say tasers were just a gun alternative

                as i keep explaining to you, SOMETIMES, they can be, ESPECIALLY when (as numerous articles mention) there are multiple officers present such that some can go lethal and other(s) can go taser, as again pointed out endlessly.

                but the tasers were NOT designed to replace guns, and considering no agency i am aware of has taken guns away from officers and replaced them with tasers, that’s swimmingly obvious

                again, they can be used in many situations where otherwise deadly force (usually a firearm) would have to be used, but they are not a substitute for a gun

                they are an adjunct to one, something that increases an officer’s use of force options

                again, you see exactly what you want to see.

                the first article is the perfect example of that

                1. in no way did it say tasers were just a gun alternative

                  Talk about narrowing your criteria. Both articles make a case for taser deployment, and only mention it’s use as an alternative to deadly force. But since it didn’t specifically say “tasers are only to be used as a gun alternative” it doesn’t meet your criteria for “police departments citing the need for tasers as an alternative to deadly force.”?

                  Here’s a thought experiment for your deliberatley obtuse self:

                  I ask for grant money to buy a vaccine for whooping cough to give to at-risk children. I give the vaccine to a few kids, but use most of it to fill water balloons to throw at people who annoy me. Because I didn’t specifically state that “the vaccine is only going to be used for children” I haven’t misrepresented my intentions and you have no cause for complaint? Because that is the argument you’re making.

                  But since you’re being deliberately obtuse, you’ll no doubt purposely misconstrue this as well.

    2. There are plenty of situations where cops avoiding confrontation is a bad thing.

      The taser is just technology, it’s a neutral thing. The root problem is that cops can get away with anything.

      1. utter rubbish. yet another reason canard, oft repeated and easily discredited

        1. I could post at least two examples of cops not getting charged with a crime that a citizen would, for every single example of charges being filed. Care to take me up on it?

          1. among other things, your examples are not (setting aside the ‘Citizen’ thing) equivalent, since “citizens” are rarely in the situation of having to take into custody a resistant subject.

            they are disanalogous, almost always

            this is another reason canard… the “a “citizen” couldn’t do this w/o being charged” crap

            a “citizen” can’t detain somebody (generally speaking) on reasonable suspicion EITHER

            1. So we eliminate use of force complaints that occured on-duty that are even somewhat questionable. The offer still stands.

      2. “There are plenty of situations where cops avoiding confrontation is a bad thing.” Plenty=3

  8. ” 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.”

    who the hell claims of believes that myth.

    tasers are not designed to be used primarily against people with weapons any more than batons or pepper spray were

    this statement shows a complete misunderstanding of the taser’s place in the UOF spectrum

    “In 75 percent of incidents, no verbal warnings were reported, despite expert recommendations that verbal warnings precede Taser firings.”

    actually, at best, “expert” recommendations say taht warnings should be given (just like in deadly force situations) “when practicable”

    ” 40 percent of the Taser incidents analyzed involved at-risk subjects, such as children,”

    how do they define children? like the anti-gunners defined them for their propaganda, as anybody under the age of 20?

    ” the elderly, the visibly infirm and individuals who are seriously intoxicated or mentally ill.”

    seriously intoxicated and/or mentally ill persons are amongst some of the more dangerous and often violent people officers contact.

    so, this is not surprising AT ALL. it would be surprising if this was NOT the case.

    1. 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.”

      who the hell claims of believes that myth.

      It’s how they were sold to the public in the first damn place. This has been pointed out to you before. Further, unless you’re twelve, you should remember anyway.

      actually, at best, “expert” recommendations say taht warnings should be given (just like in deadly force situations) “when practicable”

      But upthread you said:

      the primary way tasers are effective ime is that officers are able to gain compliance WITHOUT firing them.

      Hard to do without a warning. So they’re not used effectivly most of the time? Sounds about right.

      so, this is not surprising AT ALL. it would be surprising if this was NOT the case.

      Glad you agree.

      1. again, the issue was a “verbal warning” . i can post a video (i think i did in another thread) of a guy pepper spraying a guy (frankly, the guy was lucky not to get shot) after the officer warned him several times to show the officer both his hands, etc. and the guy refused to comply

        no VERBAL warning was given as to the pepper spray either.

        however, the guy had ample opportunity TO comply, which is the point

        this is the kind of person that ends up (usually) getting pepper stunned or tased and god knows this was WELL w/in the UOF spectrum

        i heard no verbal warning about the capstunning

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7K2YO47mn0

        classic example… and no, he did not have to warn about the captstunning. i’m glad they caught this asshole

        1. again, the issue was a “verbal warning” . i can post a video (i think i did in another thread) of a guy pepper spraying a guy (frankly, the guy was lucky not to get shot) after the officer warned him several times to show the officer both his hands, etc. and the guy refused to comply

          and upthread:

          actually, at best, “expert” recommendations say taht warnings should be given (just like in deadly force situations) “when practicable”

          So it’s your premise that 75 percent of the time, it’s not “practical” to shout “I’m gonna tase you” In between repeated shouts of “Get on the ground” or “give me your hands”?

          That’s pretty weak, dude.

          Also, how do you know that the ACLU definition didn’t include orders given after the taser was drawn?

          1. neither of us have ANY idea what exactly the ACLU used as criteria for “verbal warnings” but i am saying that when you have a taser pointed at you, the verbal warning is superflous

            i had the cops point a gun at me. they did not (as far as i recall) tell me i would be shot if I didn’t comply. but i got the message

            1. So it’s your premise that 75 percent of the time, it’s not “practical” to shout “I’m gonna tase you” In between repeated shouts of “Get on the ground” or “give me your hands”?

  9. By the description of events and the body size and shape of Allen Kephart, his death is primarily due to restraint asphyxia. “Died in a struggle with the police” is code for “incompetent restraint”. The lawyers go after Taser because of the deep pockets and because there are known mechanisms that can contribute to death. While someone is being suffocated on the ground in a prone position with multiple people on top of them, a Taser only serves to increase excitement and metabolic demands at a time when the paralysis from the Taser is further interfering with breathing.

    It’s important not to confuse very different mechanisms if police are to be properly retrained about proper restraint, Tasers and use of force.

    #DOJ statement in 1995 on avoidable death in restraint or custody: Positional Asphyxia and Sudden Death http://bit.ly/fWyJKg

    Asphyxial Death During Prone Restraint Revisited: 21 Cases http://bit.ly/p86G5F

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