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on Monday, April 21st, 2008 at 11:26 am by Radley Balko
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21 Responses to “More Damage from the Non-Lethal Taser”
Radley, you should start a running list of tasering incidents that lead to serious health problems and/or death. Mount it permanently on the first page or make it a recurring series. The perspective that would grant might be useful for those who do not follow such things regularly.
It is interesting that the (expected) death is of a young college kid who was at least strong enough to get into fights with both the bouncers and the police, and unlikely to have the sort of heart conditions that would make him overly susceptible to the taser. If the taser kills in such a situation, there really must be greater scrutiny of taser use. Hopefully we will get some investigations (but I don’t hold my breath, having read this site for some time now).
From a legal situation, those who argue that they were unjustly tasered can point to this case as evidence that use of the taser is capable of killing even healthy young men.
This is one situation where (like those above have mentioned) a truly non-lethal means of ending a fight would be appropriate, and if the taser was proven to never be lethal, I would support its use in this case.
Still, I feel bad for the kid…such a horrible way to go.
SJE–Not necessarily. Big guys often have cardiac hypertrophy. I believe (though don’t quote me on this b/c I don’t have time to look it up) this is the number one cause of sudden death in young athletes.
But this is really beside the point. Tasers have killed enough people (heart conditions notwithstanding) that their classification and use as a “non-lethal” weapon is laughable.
Since almost any use of force can be lethal, we definately shouldn’t focus on the tool itself, but in the manner in which it is used. In this case, without more info, I just can’t tell if it was a justified use, though it sounds like it.
Perhaps it’s just me, and I don’t have the time to go back through all the articles just this moment, but it seems that a fair number of those who ultimately suffer “complications” from being tased are chemically impaired. I wonder if there have been any studies on the physical effects of tasing on subjects who are under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and if/how they may differ from those in a control group. Perhaps the suspicion that your adversary may be drunk or high should be a contraindication to using a taser or stun gun.
“Police said that while they were trying to arrest the friend, Piskura got involved, at times fighting with both bar staff and police officers.
An Oxford bicycle officer allegedly warned both men to stop fighting. According to police, the friend complied but Piskura did not. That is when police tased Piskura”
Against Stupidity |
April 21st, 2008 at 5:46 pm
The problem seems to be with the perception that the Taser is non-lethal. This perception causes the police to immediately escalate to using it on combative or resisting people. Tasers should be classified as something like, extremely incapacitating, potentially lethal. The standard for using this particular weapon should be one step below lethal force, situations where attempting contact with the suspect will result in a high risk of lethal injury to the officer (e.g. suspect is holding a rock, large stick, knife).
The Taser should be the last resort before using lethal force and not a tool to pacify combative suspects. The police should not be afraid to physically subdue a mean drunk.
If a Taser is used to pacify or punish and a death results, it should be classified as a wrongful death and the officer and department should be held to the appropriate standard.
Against Stupidity |
April 21st, 2008 at 6:14 pm
Not all degrees of uncertainty are equal. The potential for killing someone is higher with a gun than a Taser, but a properly used night stick is probably less risky as is the proper use of physical force. If you notice, as the risk of lethality goes down the risk to the officer goes up.
Also, the information in the article is limited and it reads to me like he attempted to get up off the ground after being ordered to stay down, drunks are notoriously stupid, so the officer tased him. Its only justified if the potential lethality was relatively low. How low is low enough? I don’t think a taser was.
Though the use of the Taser may well have been justified in this case, I believe that this weapon has been placed too low on the use of force continuum. It has also been sold by Taser Inc. as non-lethal, so perhaps this corporation is guilty of fraud.
An electronic weapon should never be used to punish a smart-ass or someone who runs from an officer (I believe this happens more than we would like). As a public safety officer, you should be prepared to deal with douche bags and ready to chase fleeing suspects. Cases involving a suspect that is actively resisting but unarmed (the suspect in this story probably fits into this category), are more complicated. If the suspect is much larger than the officer or has advanced martial arts training, the officer might be justified in Tasering this person. Otherwise, I agree with “Against Stupidity’s” standard for Taser deployment. “Kwix” is correct that a large percentage of Taser-related fatalities involved intoxicated individuals. While I sympathize with considering this condition to be a conrtaindication for Taser use, I must point out that the suspects made the choice to get intoxicated. If the situation is serious enough, officers should not be held to standard this inflexible.
As a prospective police recruit, I have had to participate in relatively challenging physical agility tests. If the Taser is the end all and be all, why have I been subjected to such tests? Police officers should be sharp enough to de-escalate many situations by talking to suspects. In the case of intoxicated subjects or others who aren’t interested in listening to reason, officers should be fit enough and well trained enough to physically subdue most suspects without having to rely on the tools on their belts. In extreme situations though, even those of us who are critical of Tasers should have the integrity to acknowledge that they have saved numerous lives.
“I must point out that the suspects made the choice to get intoxicated. ”
OTOH, they are within their rights to get drunk.
You take your victim as you find him, thin skull and all, and I’ve never heard that it matters if the thin skull was by the victim’s own choice. If the cop can quickly determine that the suspect is drunk, as is often the case when it’s against the suspect’s interest, then he should know that the weapon he is about to use is even more likely to be lethal than otherwise.
The witness told 9News, “I’m pretty sure he yelled a warning, something like, I’ll tase you to the young man, who was on his back, and it looked like it was going to end there. But five seconds later, you heard the shot of the taser. He looked like he was trying to roll away, he was in obvious pain for 15, 20, 25 seconds.”
If this is accurate, Piskura was already much less of a danger when he was tased.
Also, there’s presumably a typo in the article here: shouldn’t it be “the man who was tased?
Chris: If there are enough cops available, it’s possible to safely restrain a man just by grabbing and holding all his limbs. But it’s not easy, and several cops may take a punch, kick, or bite before they can catch enough holds…