Taser Fact Sheet

TASERS CAN CAUSE DEATH

Police say that Taser use saves lives because they don’t have to shoot someone if they use Tasers effectively. However, Tasers are NOT AN ALTERNATIVE to using lethal force. Sure, it would be nice, but police are trained to meet a lethal threat with a gun-not a taser. In fact, Tasers are mostly used against unarmed people, not people who could really kill or injure an officer!

From 2001 until February of 2014, the ACLU and the website www.electronic village.blogspot.com have documented 547 Taser related deaths. There have been even more since then.

In May of 2012, the American Heart Association’s premier journal, “Circulation” published a study by Dr. Douglas Zipes, of Indiana University’s Krannert Institute of Cardiology. He found that a shock from the Taser “can cause cardiac electric capture and provoke cardiac arrest” as a result of an abnormally rapid heart rate and uncontrolled, fluttering contractions. Yes, Taser shocks, especially to the chest, can kill.

TASERS DON’T REDUCE IN CUSTODY DEATHS OR OFFICER INJURIES

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, the main reason to employ Tasers is the belief that they reduce officer injuries and in custody deaths. After a comprehensive study involving 10 years worth of data from over 100 departments from across the country, this myth was disproved. “In conclusion, although considered by some a safer alternative to firearms, Taser deployment was associated with a substantial increase in in-custody sudden deaths in the early deployment period, with no decrease in firearm deaths or serious officer injuries.” (Am J Cardiol 2009;103:877– 880)

MISUSE OF TASERS

After completing an analysis of Phoenix Police Department use-of-force reports, The Arizona Republic found 377 incidents involving the use of a Taser. In nearly nine out of ten of the incidents, the subjects had posed no imminent threat to officers with any weapons.

As of May 28, 2014, the ACLU has called on Baltimore Police to put a moratorium on the use of Tasers since their use by police has DOUBLED since 2009.

According to Gabriel Russell in Law Enforcement Magazine (September 2013), Tasers are so “safe” and “effective” that they are “overused” by police. “So much so that over-dependence on it has resulted in an avalanche of use-of-force lawsuits and unfavorable court decisions across the county.”

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TASERS CAN INVITE LITIGATION

Courts have found Tasers constitute the use of “excessive force” and thus violate the Fourth Amendment, provided the Taser was used in an instance when its deployment was unjustified. Victims of Taser use can seek compensation, but only if an agency’s use guidelines are deficient and if training is so poor that it could be considered “deliberately indifferent.

In September, 2009, Taser changed its product warnings. Taser’s ECDs weapons are now branded as “less lethal” instead of “non lethal,” and its training materials warn that “exposure in the chest area near the heart … could lead to cardiac arrest.”

80-90% of those who are tasered, were unarmed when they were arrested and tased. Most policies guiding Taser use allow police to follow a “Continuum of Force” that directs officers to use Tasers as an alternative to the use of hands, feet and a baton. It also instructs them to use Tasers to overcome “active resistance” by an individual, including behavior that does not pose a physical threat to anyone. This is basically giving police license to use Tasers against little old ladies who ask too many questions (as happened recently in Texas and elsewhere across the country).

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POLICE CHOOSING ALTERNATIVES TO TASERS

As taser-related deaths and injuries have continued to rise (as well as the amount of Taser litigation), many departments are starting to abandon the weapon in favor of other means of suspect control. Currently, Memphis, Tennessee, San Francisco, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada have opted to ban the use of tasers by law enforcement. Additionally, a federal court has ruled that the pain inflicted by the taser gun constitutes excessive force by law enforcement. The courts don’t want police to electrocute people with their tasers unless they pose an immediate threat.

TASERS CONSTITUTE A FORM OF TORTURE

In 2007, The United Nations Committee on Torture declared that TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill. At the time, it was recommended that Portugal “should consider giving up the use of the Taser X26,” as its use can have a grave physical and mental impact on those targeted, which violates the UN’s Convention against Torture”.

TASER STUDIES BIASED AND SAFETY OVERRATED

Peyman N. Azadani, MD, research associate at UCSF’s Department of Medicine and senior author Byron K. Lee, MD, associate professor of medicine in UCSF’s cardiology division, set out to gauge the accuracy of 50 published studies on the potential dangers of using TASER® products. The new study’s authors report that among the product safety studies they analyzed, the likelihood of a study concluding TASER® devices are safe was 75 percent higher when the studies were either funded by the manufacturer or written by authors affiliated with the company, than when studies were conducted independently.

PEOPLE OF COLOR AND THE MENTALLY ILL EXPERIENCE PROFILING

A 2011 report by New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) found widespread misuse of tasers. Albany police disproportionately deployed Tasers on blacks compared to whites. In the Albany incidents analyzed, 68 percent involved a Taser being used on a black person, while 28 percent of the city’s population is black. (10-18-14 The Times Union)

Approximately 30% of Taser incidents are against a people with mental illness.

In addition, the June 2014 issue of “The Psychiatric Bulletin” explains that”… the psychological effects of Taser use have not been investigated.”

Contact: The Coalition for A Taser Free Berkeley at: taserfreeberkeley@gmail.com

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