The first argument that really stood out to me was that Tasers are overused (Kleinig, 2007). Kleinig’s argument is based purely on opinion, not facts. He even states that figures for the use of Tasers are more than likely not possible to attain. The fact of the matter is, without the review of the specific report from each case, we have no idea whether or not each of the estimated 70,000 uses the U.S. GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office) report he spoke of were legitimate. Tasers are overused, compared to what? Any new technology is going to warrant more use than the older technology used for the same effect.
The next argument that stood out to me was made by both Adams/Jennison and Kleinig; the training for the Taser is not as in depth as it should be. I agree with this statement. Adams and Jennison (2007) state that the policies for Taser-use in police departments across the USA is unknown because of how different each department handles the training for the weapon. A lot of problems with differences in training, curriculum and standard operating procedures exist that make interdepartmental, joint police work very tough to complete without relative confusion from one department to another. To me, the solution seems quite simple; implement a nationally recognized training regiment and qualification system that officers must complete in order to carry and use the CED. Annual testing, certification and qualification should take place no less than yearly. That being said, nothing is fool-proof and mistakes are bound to be made. All of the training in the world cannot stop this.
There are laws in place to punish officers who violate a civilian’s 4th Amendment rights and prematurely reach the level of continuum of force necessary to employ the CED. The Doctrine of Qualified Immunity releases an officer of liability in the case of a subject’s death, as long as the officer acted according to training standards. If the officer is found to have violated the subject’s 4th Amendment rights, the liability will fall on the officer. In order to charge the officer liable, the court must prove that the officer acted unlawfully in order to do this. If the liability falls on the officer, he/she will be responsible for the plaintiff’s attorney fees and any punitive damages assessed. Also, the officer will face disciplinary action and criminal prosecution (Fitterman, 2007). The risk of facing legal action is harsh enough for officers who violate policies regarding use of force and 4th Amendment rights. In my opinion, no further action needs to be taken to put a stranglehold on the use of the Taser.
The relatively small number of deaths connected to the number of uses of the CED are, in comparison, not as bad as what people who are against it would like to believe. According to Fitterman (2007), over 150 deaths had occurred as a result, either directly or indirectly, from the Taser by 2005. Kleinig (2007) stated that the U.S. GAO reported that the Taser had been used approximately 70,000 times by 2005. Without the data to support how many lives were actually in jeopardy when the Taser was deployed, it is impossible to predict how many lives have been saved (spared) by the Taser. If that number could be obtained, the 150+ deaths might not seem like such a big deal. To me, a 0.2% mortality rate is still well worth the risk if officers can perform their jobs more safely.
The media is one of the biggest factors involved in negative publicity towards the use of the Taser. The media’s attention towards Taser-related abuse has caused a lot of controversy.
Adams, K. & Jennison, V. (2007). What we do not know about police use of Tasers.Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 30(3), 447-465.
Fitterman, E. (2007). Control Devices: Legal Aspects Overview. NTCSL e-Newsletter, 7(4), 3-5.
Kleinig, J. (2007). Ethical constraints on Taser use by police. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 1(3), 284-292.