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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Editorial: tragic lesson on tasers

July 19, 2008
News-Record, Greensboro, North Carolina


"One young life = one five-day vacation"

That's how one blogger [YOURS TRULY!!] described the punishment meted out to Jerry Dawson, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer involved in the Taser-related death of a teenage grocery store worker on March 20.

Darryl Turner, 17, died after being Tasered twice by Dawson. One Taser discharge Dawson gave Turner lasted 37 seconds. A standard discharge lasts about five. An autopsy determined that Turner died from heart irregularities.

A police department review commission determined that using force to subdue the unruly clerk was appropriate, but the amount of force used wasn't. The CMPD banned lengthy Taser discharges in 2005, after studies pointed out their problems.

Dawson was suspended for five days without pay and has been ordered to receive more Taser training - a punishment that is little more than a wrist slap. Letting police review boards determine disciplinary action for officers is problematic. At the least, it causes the public to question the fairness of such procedures.

The Dawson case also highlights the need for all law-enforcement agencies to ensure that their officers are well-trained in using Tasers before they begin carrying them.

Tasers are a good tool for law enforcement. They enable the police to subdue people without the use of deadly force and, when used correctly, they are a more humane alternative to such things as nightsticks or pepper spray.

A Taser's effects usually end when the discharge ends. When used as intended, in a short, five-second discharge, few, if any, problems result. Complications arise, as a study by the National Institute of Justice says, through the devices' "continuous or repeated discharge."

Research has found that prolonged Taser use can cause heart and respiratory problems. In one study, researchers used Tasers on 11 pigs for 40 seconds each: Two of the pigs died and the survivors were left with heart irregularities.

With High Point officers beginning to use Tasers next month, most Guilford law-enforcement agencies will be using these devices. The agencies' Taser training needs to include information on times when Taser use went bad.

Officers need to learn about the Florida man who died after being Tasered 12 times and the South Carolina man who died after being Tasered for two minutes and 49 seconds. They need to learn about 17-year-old Darryl Turner, killed at his grocery store job after being Tasered twice for 42 seconds. Arming officers with the facts should mean fewer such tragedies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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