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Monday, November 10, 2008

EDITORIAL: Toughening up laws on tasers will protect suspects, police

November 10, 2008
Orlando Sentinel

Used properly, Tasers are a great ally to a law-enforcement officer. They allow police to subdue a suspect without having to shoot him or whack his head with a club.

But in the hands of an overzealous officer, a Taser becomes a dangerous companion piece to fighting crime.

Using them is often a subjective call, made in the frenzy of trying to apprehend someone.

Bad stuff can happen.

In 2005, a prisoner was zapped twice by Orlando police while he was strapped to a gurney in Florida Hospital.

Last March, a rambunctious 11-year-old girl was shocked by a deputy sheriff working as a resource officer at Moss Park Middle School.

And there's the infamous cry of "Don't tase me, bro!" from Andrew Meyer, who got stunned after getting unruly during a forum with Sen. John Kerry at the University of Florida in September 2007.

None of these people should ever have felt that jolt of electricity.

That's why it's important for the Legislature to beef up a law that regulates the use of stun guns in Florida.

A bill passed in 2006 set some basic parameters. They allow an officer to use a Taser on someone who "has the apparent ability to physically threaten the officer or others," or is "preparing or attempting to flee or escape."

It also requires a law-enforcement officer to pass a basic skills course that's set at a minimum of four hours.

But that's like somebody going on vacation in the Caribbean, putting on some scuba gear for two hours in the hotel pool, and thinking they're certified to dive 60 feet into the deep blue sea.

Tasers aren't toys. They can deliver anywhere from 1,200 to 5,000 volts that can be deadly.

It has happened in Central Florida, unfortunately, where these stun guns have been implicated in five deaths. The Justice Department is rightfully urging tighter controls on the use of the devices by the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Those federal recommendations should be state policy as well: Suspects who are restrained should not be stunned. Police should be more careful before they shock suspects who are under the influence of drugs because of possible physical complications.

We'd also urge them never to use a stun gun on a child.

State Sen. Stephen Wise, who pushed the statewide controls now in place, says he is amenable to revisiting the bill to see if more criteria can be set for Taser use.

Let's be clear on this: Tasers are a great tool for officers. It's always best to stun instead of shoot.

There's no question that local law-enforcement officers are already making better decisions. Orange County deputies have used stun guns in 273 instances this year, according to the most recent data. That reflects a steady decline during the past three years from the 409 incidents documented in 2005. Likewise, Taser incidents are down from 337 in 2005 to 208 in the city of Orlando.

Using stun guns is not the problem. It's using them wisely that matters most. Setting clearer parameters will encourage that to happen.

It's not just for the protection of criminal suspects. It's to protect officers trying to maintain law and order.


Anonymous said...

how come all these stories say that they don't want tasers, but they don't want people shot either??? you can't have it both ways

Anonymous said...

Since when did Canada become GUILTY until proven INNOCENT??? Why is it that the media still blames Taser for deaths that the product had nothing to do with??? Look at the guy in Quebec last week, he DID NOT die from Taser, but AI and the media still count it?? The coroner said he died from brain swelling and lack of medical treatment. When will the truth be posted about Taser instead of the media misinformation

Anonymous said...

Hello anonymous #1:

Tasers are used about one hundred times (100x !!!!, roughly) as often as police guns ever were.

Your statement ("...shot...") is a badge of ignorance in that it clearly demonstrates that you haven't been paying the slightest attention to the news.

If only tasers replaced guns then I wouldn't be the slightest worried about the risk of death.

But it is an old stale lie that tasers replace guns. Even Taser has given up on that old line.

Hello anonymous #2:

I, for one, am perfectly prepared to allow that some of the taser-associated deaths may really truly be caused by other factors.

But I (and anyone paying attention) is probably not willing to give tasers a complete 'pass' on each and every last taser-associated death. And it only takes one clear-cut example to make a lie of Taser's claims. And we're up to at least two (if not many many many more).

Taser is very very very good at muddling the issue.

But there are a growing number of clear-cut reports of taser-then-dead incidents.

Even the mainstream media are asking the obvious question:

'You expect us to believe that every last one of these victims would have fallen over dead on their own just then in the absence of a taser? Are you serious?'

Taser's claims are ridiculous and becoming more-obviously so with each tasered-then-dead incident.

Tasers are often used in 'display' mode where it is simply shown to the subject. How many subjects have died after the taser is displayed (but not deployed)?

According to Taser's logic, subjects should be falling over dead even when the taser is simply held up.

Anonymous said...

Its seams clear to me that this weapon have been rushed out without objective testing on human subject. Tazer's utilization is more and more common since its a ''clean'' and effortless way to get control out of the situation but its clearly not the safest way for the outlaw to get arrested. Since there are unpredictable out turns, this weapon shouldn't be used.