You Be The Judge: Is It Okay To Taser a Grandmother?

The topic of Taser abuse by police has again reared its ugly head. This time a 72-year-old grandmother was Tasered during a traffic stop. The incident began when police stopped the woman for speeding in a construction zone. Unfortunately, she refused to sign the traffic summons.

A traffic stop is an arrest, and signing the summons is the suspect’s promise to appear in court – sort of like posting bail. If the speeder refuses to sign, officers have no choice other than to take the person into custody. And that’s where this unfortunate story begins to take a nasty turn. After the woman refused to sign the summons the officer ordered her out of the car. She did get out and walk to the rear of her vehicle, arguing all the way. Still, so far so good for everyone involved.

The spunky lady finally agreed to sign the ticket, but that didn’t quite seem to satisfy the officer. He ordered her to step back or be Tasered. She again said she’d sign the summons and…well, you watch the video and see for yourself.  In fact, you be the judge and jury. Were the officer’s actions justified?


– New Scientist (February 2009) reports that sudden deaths among people in police custody, in California, increased sixfold after police departments there began using Tasers. New Scientist based their comments on a University of California, San Francisco survey.

I recently spoke to a mother whose son died after being shot with a Taser by California police. The woman desperately wants answers about the events that led to her son’s death, but can’t find a single person who is willing to help. According to the mother, police accounts of that night don’t seem to match the statements given by witnesses. Sadly, the mother’s story is becoming quite familiar.

Unfortunately, deaths that occur shortly after Taser deployment seem to be on the rise. Are those deaths directly related to the device? Or, do the victims have some sort of unknown medical condition that contributes to their demise? Does substance abuse increase the effects of a Taser?

What are your thoughts? Are police officers reaching for the Taser too quickly? Should other means of control be utilized before resorting to Taser use? Which is more important, an officer’s safety, or the well-being of combative criminal suspects?



12 replies
  1. Terry
    Terry says:

    Lee, you know I was teasing. But what the media picks up on as a “label” is sometimes beside the point. Had something happened to me, I wonder what tag someone would put on it. I cringe to think someone would refer to me as a 62 year old grandmother. That may be true, but it’s scary to think of it being the only newsworthy thing about me. Heck, I’ve only had the chance to play ‘grandma’ in person half a dozen times.

    I recall writing a letter to our newspaper protesting a headline about some woman being chosen for some position (see–can’t even remember). If a MAN had been chosen, would they have put that in the headline? Why not, “graduate of XX college,” or, “long-time advocate of XX”.

    All of which, again, has nothing to do with your blog post, and is just a way to avoid working on my WIP for a few more minutes. 🙂

  2. Rita L. Smith
    Rita L. Smith says:

    Personally, I think the people should respect our law enforcement officers. If they had then these situations probably wouldn’t have happened. Besides, I think that the officers adrenaline must have been by the time the old woman got out of the car and it’s harder to think at those times. Still, I think there would have been a better way to handle this before it got to that point. Talking calmly can solve many situations before they escalate.

  3. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    Lee, that mother bear instinct comes out in all us moms. If it had been her husband, she probably would have let you take him away.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I kind of disagree with you on this one, Elena. The fact that the woman was grandmother and 72 does mean something in this case. I personally think the officer could/should have done something other than use his Taser on the woman, because of her size, stature, and age. If the unruly suspect had been a young, strong man, then I’d say different. Although, the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life was by a woman. She really whomped me when I tried to arrest her son.

    Also, it was important to mention the group of young, Jewish children who witnessed the museum shooting because some of them felt the shooting happened BECAUSE they’re Jewish. The kids were very upset by what they’d seen and heard. They may have lasting effects from this trauma.

  5. Elena
    Elena says:

    I’m with Terry. I am getting very tired of news being slanted to the relationship with children, even if they have to drag the little ones in by their heels. Besides “grandmother” being irrelevant. In today’s blog for some reason the killing in the Holocaust museum had to be sensationalized by including the extraneous knowledge that there were a group of school children touring the museum.

    Just because the media reports include sensational information doesn’t mean it should be supported by being repeated.

    As for tasers, I think they should be restricted to actual riot situations. Being considered non-lethal does not mean they actually are non-lethal.

  6. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    That’s the way the story was billed on most of the news channels and that’s why I used it here. Besides, she’s 72 and she’s a grandmother; therefore, the officer Tasered a 72-year-old grandmother. You know me – if she’d been a one-eyed, one-legged, 24-year-old stripper I would have used that in the title. 🙂

  7. Terry
    Terry says:

    I’m just being snarky here and wondering what “Grandma” has to do with it? Obviously, what you’re going for is the LOL (not laugh out loud, the OTHER meaning) image. At least I think it’s obvious.

    OK — This grandma is going to have coffee now. Back to your intelligent discussion of whether ’tis good or not good to Tase.

  8. sandy2258
    sandy2258 says:

    I agree that a traffic stop is a very dangerous situation. I believe Granny was a little too big for her britches. However, I too believe taht the officers a lot of times use the taser too quickly. The same thing happened when mace and then pepper spray was issued and they all had bad side effects on a small segment of the population. With tasers, a lot of officers (ones that probably shouldn’t be in the first place) see the taser as a last resort before using their guns. This in my mind is the wrong way to think.

    As one of the 1st female officers with my department (yes i am telling my age), I found myself many times in situations where talking and responding settled a lot more situations than any of the above tools accomplished and with a lot less controversy. I personally don’t like the taser but then again, I am retired and have never used one. I certainly won’t do anything at a traffic stop or otherwise to cause it to be used on me.

    With the Grandma however, I saw the situation more as an attempt to keep her out of harm’s way (traffic) which in turn helped keep the officer from having to snatch her physically out of traffic again. In the 2nd video I believe the officer definitely acted in haste. There again, trying not to second guess the officer we didn’t see what actions happened inside the cab of the truck.

  9. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    A traffic stop can be a dangerous situation for a police officer. He’s at the disadvantage. He has to be in control for his own safety & possibly the safety of the person he’s stopped. A confrontation that seems innocent can quickly turn bad.
    I’m unwilling to say whether the action was excessive or not seeing as I couldn’t see what the officer saw in the car – ie, the driver’s actions or facial expression.
    I just wonder why the drivers chose to be confrontational. The best action is to do what the officer asks & if you feel the ticket’s unjustified, go to court.

  10. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Hi SZ,
    What would have happened if the officer had cuffed ’em? Perhaps that would have been the end of it, but I have to tell you that cuffing someone who does want want to be cuffed is easier than it sounds.

    I am unable to watch the videos on this computer, so I can’t specifically comment on the videos. Perhaps the officer could have taken a better approach, but consider this – what might have happened to the woman if the offier had to wrestle with her to get her under control?

    Tasers and pepper spray and other means of subduing persons is considered non-lethal, and often thought to be better than hands on wrestling with persons, which has proven over the years to be a method that can cause unintended injury.

  11. SZ
    SZ says:

    Both cases in videos seemed excessive to me. What would have happened if the officer had taken there hands and turned them and cuffed them ? The officer was larger in both cases.

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