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?