Saturday, March 20, 2010


When Tasers should be used

I’ve spent a good few posts talking about the abuse of Tasers by police (here, here, and here, for instance). You might think that I’m against Tasers altogether, but that’s not true. I’ve consistently said that police officers must be trained in appropriate Taser use, and the rules for that must be enforced.

Appropriate use is in situations where the alternative would be shooting a gun. A Taser is “less-deadly force”.

Here, from last month in New York City, is a perfect example of appropriate user:

Police officers fatally shot a man in a Bronx apartment late Sunday after he refused to stop beating his mother with a frying pan, officials said on Monday.

The officers fired at the man, Satnam Singh, 27, five times, striking him three times in the torso, after he ignored their orders to stop, according to the police. Medical workers pronounced him dead at the scene.

The New York City officers did not have Tasers — they have not been widely deployed in New York City, and for good reason. But if they had them in this case, we wouldn’t have a dead man who “had a history of emotional problems.” We wouldn’t be wondering how trained officers could miss two out of five shots at a stationary target at close range. And we wouldn’t wonder where the two missed bullets went, and whether they could have hit the victim the officers were trying to protect.

It’s a tough balance, making these things available for officers to use appropriately, but preventing their abuse. Tough, but important.

1 comment:

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Coincidentally, this blog entry came out the same morning as this story about the tasering of a high school student in my community:

It's a good example of your point. Presumably, the "school deputy" (whatever that means) wouldn't have shot this student with a gun, but free to taser him. I think it's inexcusable, but apparently if you give someone a taser, he's gonna use it eventually.