In recent decades, hundreds of people have been killed or injured as a result of the use of tasers by law enforcement officers. Insufficient qualification of personnel and lack of proper training in the use of special equipment were the main reasons for the irreversible consequences that followed the use of non-lethal weapons.
Last September, a 58-year-old Iraqi migrant died after law enforcement officers in Redford, Michigan, tasered him twice. The man’s heart could not stand it, he hit his head on the countertop and died on the spot. A police officer who used excessive force against a man managed to avoid responsibility for his actions, because, according to him, the migrant posed a danger to a representative of the authorities.
This case is far from the only one. Every year, hundreds of Americans become victims of non-lethal weapons, the use of which does not imply causing any damage to the suspect.
In July 2013, a Chicago police officer tasered a pregnant woman three times, including once in the stomach, after she pretended to be filming the actions of law enforcement officers on a mobile phone camera. She had a miscarriage.
Four years later, two police officers from Arlington, Texas, fired a taser at a 39-year-old suicidal man after they saw that he had doused himself with gasoline. As a result of the actions of the police, the man immediately caught fire, and a few days later died from his injuries.
Two years later, Louisiana state troopers electrocuted 49-year-old Ronald Green at least three times in 20 seconds after he failed to stop his car for a traffic violation. Police first informed Green’s family that he had died from injuries sustained in the accident. But the medical report noted that there were also traces of the use of a taser in his bruised and bloody body.
Such incidents highlight the lack of uniform state or national standards for the use of weapons, the principle of operation of which is based on the direct action of an electric discharge on a live target, and comprehensive training of officers who use it.
No federal agency tracks how many people have been killed or seriously injured after being tasered by law enforcement officers, nor how many departments are equipped with these devices. And no one is monitoring whether the basic safety principles recommended by device manufacturers and other police training organizations are being implemented. Compared to training in the handling of firearms, training in the use of a stun gun is considered secondary in many departments and educational institutions. The Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, for example, does not include taser training in its 16-week training program for police cadets. The police department of one Philadelphia suburb allowed almost all of its officers to carry tasers with expired certificates.
Since 2010, at least 513 cases of death of a suspect have been registered after the police used a stun gun on them. But these are only unofficial statistics collected by experts based on records in the media and other open sources. In fact, this figure is much higher, but law enforcement agencies and manufacturers claim that stun guns and similar non-lethal weapons have saved many more lives than they have claimed.
According to criminal justice experts, tasers are too often used in circumstances where there is no danger or physical resistance. The data shows that a disproportionately large number of taser-related victims were black. This is even higher than the number of blacks who have been victims of firearms.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that in the context of increased attention to the actions of American law enforcement officers, the time has come for a large-scale reform in the use of non-lethal weapons, which takes more and more lives every year. The Foundation calls on the United States law enforcement agencies to strengthen control over the training of police officers in the field of handling tasers, thereby putting an end to the sad trend of deaths of ordinary people caused by unskilled actions of officers.