Taser Use and Civil Rights

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Civil Rights – Policies of Police Taser Use

Martin Luther King forced amazing changes to the American people through nonviolent protests, marches and moving speeches contributing greatly to the freedoms Americans have come to rely upon and trust in every day. Today, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have relived the brutal police action of 1960’s via television specials and Martin Luther King web casts which got me thinking; do we need another Martin Luther King to put us back on track and prioritize Americans Civil RIghts? This leads me to a further pressing question and the point at hand for this article, “Do the police have too much ungoverned authority and power to use Tasers upon everyday citizens”?

After a rather personal encounter with common police tactics using Conducted Energy Devices (CED) or more specifically a Taser, I am curious as to whether our civil rights are being violated by over 7,000 police departments on the daily basis due to them not having consistent and appropriate regulations governing the use of Tasers use, the medical consequences of the Taser and whether Taser use as it stands is violating our civil rights. As a citizen, you be the judge.

Tasers – Electronic Controlled Weapon Technology

The police weaponry in question is the ECW, or Electronic Controlled Weapon. The most utilized CED by the nation’s police forces is the Taser. This product is built, tested and distributed by Taser International. According to Taser Internationals’ website, “TASER energy devices are classified as ‘Non-Lethal Weapons’ (NLW) by the United States Department of Defense. NLWs are defined as weapons that are explicitly designed and primarily employed so as to incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment.” Taser International has sold over 200,000 units to 9,800 law enforcement agencies around the world. (www.taser.com)

taser gun used by police force
Picture of a Taser

The Taser has two main settings as a stopping device. One setting is its use in “Drive Stun Mode”. In this mode, the Taser is to be used similar to a cattle prod for an up close stun weapon to be utilized as pain compliance for close up stopping power. The second setting is to use it as a nonlethal weapon fired from up to 15 feet away using its CO2 powered projectile twin barbs to shoot through up to 3 inches of clothing and into the subjects’ skin delivering a minimum of 50,000 volts of electricity.

Police Use of Force Policies and the Taser

In order to discuss the Police Departments right to use force, we must first look at Police departments’ use of force policies and where the Taser fits into this agenda. Most police departments follow a very simple Use of Force Continuum. This simply states a police officers action and reaction to suspects’ actions in a variety of situations.

The California based San Diego Police Department has the taser on the level of “greater controlling force” at the same level as chemical incapacitant sprays and “takedown techniques” and “distraction techniques” Their goal of using the Taser is to “reduce the amount of force, particularly deadly force, used in our law enforcement community and to effectively deescalate dangerous situations”.

The Arizona based Mesa Police Department places Tasers at the same level as “limited hard hands” and if the police officers encounter “defensive resistance…physical actions on the part of the suspect who is ingoring verbal commands, which attempt to prevent the officers control, but do not constitute an assault.”

use of force continuum used by many police departments
Use of Force Continuum

Police Tactices – Excessive Force

Along with this use of force continuum the understanding of excessive force must be acquired. According to the U.S. Government Accountability office, “Force is excessive when its application is inappropriate to the circumstances…the primary concern is whether the on-scene officer reasonably believes that its application was necessary and appropriate.” Based on this “reasonableness standard”, whether or not a police officer used excessive force may be determined based on the following;
1. The severity of the crime
2. The nature and extent of the threat posed by the suspect
3. The degree to which the suspect resists arrest or detention
4. Any attempts by the suspect to evade arrest by fight or flight

Medical Consequences of Taser Use

As of date, most studies on the medical consequences and side effects of Taser use found that there was a “lower injury injury potential (with tasers)…than current use of unarmed defensive tactics, baton strikes and deployment of police dogs” and that “stun devices are certainly less lethal than firearms and if they are to be deployed in similar circumstances and level of threat, then the outcome will almost certainly be safer.” Further research shows that Taser use is “essentially safe on healthy people” and people that are not under the influence of alcohol, drugs, narcotics or are pregnant.

Taser Use Violating our Civil Rights – You be the Judge

“Amnesty International considers the deployment of tasers on an individual who is resisting arrest passively by trying to hide their hands as an excessive use of force (like: Ghandi, Martin Luther King)”. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that many people being tasered are not healthy people, or are being tasered while being arrested for being under the influence of some sort of drug or alcohol putting them at a larger risk of a cardiac event. Also, there is also no way for a police officer to see plainly if a woman is in her first trimester of pregnancy. Have the effects of 50,000 volts been tested on a fetus yet?

use of force continuum used by many police departments
Passive Protesters being FireHosed by Police

After researching this story, I can’t help but think of the Taser stories that have recently been in the news along with the 70 plus deaths Amnesty International is publicizing after being tasered in the past 5 years. The UCLA student who was Tasered while passively resisting UCLA Police Officers was obviously not a threat to the guard, the taser was used as a compliance tool, much like the fire hose of the 1960’s civil rights movement. The more recent event was the 118 pound girl tasered by the Carlsbad Police Department after leaving a bar that would not allow her to use the bathroom. Was the use of Tasers in these situations equal to the severity of the crimes and the nature of the threats projected by the detainees? Were they so great that a 50,000 volt Taser was necessary? My opinion is that neither the stun gun function nor the shooting dart function of the Taser gun should ever be used to force a person to comply with a police officers order when there is no immediate threat to the officer, the suspect or those surrounding them.

The United States boasts being one of the world’s last superpowers with absolute freedom for US Citizens. Right? As much as I love the great freedoms our forefathers have provide for us and appreciate the infinite opportunity I have as a U.S. citizen, I question this absolute freedom as I learn more about new found police weaponry, in the form of electronic Tasers, that are not governed by standardized rules and regulations throughout the nations police departments. As citizens we need to police our police to ensure our Civil Rights are not being violated.

After learning about Tasers, their use by police, their nonstandardized position on the Use of Force Continuum, Amnesty Internationals pleas to halt Taser use due to the medical consequence associated with it, the United Nations view on electric shock being a form of torture; should our police departments around the US be deploying these Tasers on taxpayers?

I say conclusively, “NO to Police Taser Use.” Tasers should not be in use by our nations police departments until extensive testing proves that Tasers are non-lethal, Until Taser Use is Standardized into the Use of Force Continuum federally for EVERY POLICE DEPARTMENT TO FOLLOW and proper training has been completed by all police departments using the taser.

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Sources:
www.usccr.gov
www.acpr.gov.au
www.latimes.com
www.washingtonpost.com
www.gao.gov
www.amnestyusa.org
www.aphf.org
www.taser.com

I found a great article on Tasers from November 2006; Read it here

7 thoughts on “Taser Use and Civil Rights

  1. I agree with this writers concern about police abusing their authority. There should be a definite line drawn to where police are allowed to use these tasers and when they are not. This writer is clearly advising poeple that the police have the authority to taser anyone just because you do not respond fast enough to their orders. Even if you are a non-violent, weapon-less, law-abiding citizen who commited no crime!!!!!!!!!! The writer is a true American. Protect your civil rights folks.

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  2. My son recently experienced this sort of abuse. The Clay County Sheriff’s Department in Liberty, Missouri did just that. My son is a model citizen, has been at the same job for 12 years, bought his first home at 21 (by himself) and now just bought his second at 28 (and still owns the first one which is almost paid for) He has perfect credit and pays his taxes. He is a diesel mechanic/driver and was getting fuel in his vehicle on Memorial weekend in rural Ecktonville, Missouri. The cop tased him while inside his vehicle (AFTER the cop told him to get back in the vehicle because he was standing at the gas pump) the cop turned his lights on to engage his dash cam..(which is now MYSTERIOUSLY MISSING as well as his Scorpion body cam) My son went into convulsions and was taken by ambulance to Liberty Hospital for evaluation (which he did not ask them to do but they are lying and saying he did to try and push the ambulance bill off on him. We are filing suit against The Clay County Missouri Sheriffs Department as well as Corporal Scott Boyum the harassing officer who must have been bored. He lied so many times on the report. I KNOW he’s lying because my son had a witness with him who told me the entire story minute by minute of what happened, and then when my son was released he ALSO told me the SAME EXACT story…Now HOW could 2 people tell the same story when they had no time to talk to MAKE SURE they were both telling the same story. I SMELL AT RAT, and I know who’s lying..The CLAY COUNTY CORPORAL SCOTT BOYUM is… This might be a LONG battle but we are willing to fight for justice. THIS WAS JUST WRONG!!!

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  3. Mindy – It is such a shame. Our tax dollars are being spent on new weapons and tactical gear but not enough training on how cops should handle their position of power.

    I wish you good luck on your claim agains the police department. Unfortunately, the municipality you are up against will not be trying to help you achieve justice, they will be trying hide all wrong doing and liability at all costs. They will fabricate witnesses, lie in police reports and the District Attorney will do his best to discredit your son and his witness. It’s a shame, but I have no faith in the Civil Justice System in the United States.

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  4. Yes Stefan, it is a shame. And NOW out of the blue, on July 20th they ‘APPARENTLY’ filed charges against him from that SAME NIGHT (Assault on an officer) They mailed it to the WRONG ADDRESS certified, my son NEVER got notification that he had a court date in August, and on September 20th I received a letter from our attorney informing me that they had filed MORE CHARGES against my son and that because he didn’t show up in court, he now had a $10,000 bond and a warrant for his arrest.. I thought you had to be served a subpoena to be summoned to court.. Am I wrong? Finally we came up with the cash to bond him out so he went and turned himself in. It took them 3 hours to release him after he turned himself in. This is the most screwed up justice system I have ever seen! But we have noticed a HUGE mistake they have made, I am pretty sure the attorney will tear the hell out of them in court over it too. We have hired a VERY GOOD ATTORNEY.. It cost a lot, but I am pretty sure justice will prevail.. I already know the cop has already discredited HIMSELF.. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he realizes it.. stupid stupid cop. I believe the old saying is ‘when you lie, you trip up’ He already tripped up and probably has no idea yet..

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  5. Well, now Clay County Missouri Sheriff’s Department dropped ALL THE CHARGES against my son. Dan White, the Clay County, MO Prosecuting Attorney is probably one of the most corrupt I have seen to date. He called our attorney and threatened us (through our attorney) that if we continued with a lawsuit that they would file MORE charges against my son and slap a $50,000.00 CASH ONLY bond on him and he would just sit in jail. Now if this isn’t corrupt, I have no idea what is. I will surely be telling every person I know that in 2014 when he is up for re-election, to definitely VOTE HIM OUT. Bob Boydston is up for re-election this year (2012) and I will be telling everyone to vote Vescovo in as the new Sheriff for Clay County, MO. As for Scott Boyum, Kyle Fulkerson, and all the others involved, I hope they all lose their jobs. Karma is a itch, and she strikes at the damndest times.

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  6. And by the way, if anyone runs across this site and reads about any corruption from any of the named persons here. Dan White, Clay County, MO. Bob Boydston, Clay County, MO. Kyle Fulkerson, CLay County, MO. Scott Boyum, Clay County, MO. Please feel free to respond here. I would love to hear of more of their corruption. I can probably help you out and send you to a great attorney. Clay County dropped every charge. Assault on an officer, DUI, failure to submit a sobriety test, failure to register a motor vehicle, no proof of insurance, failure to obey an officer.. They even had to cancel the charges with the State of Missouri on the failure to blow (which is an automatic suspension of your license) I’d say they screwed up. I wanted my son to continue with the lawsuit and he didn’t want to deal with it. Which is the ONLY reason we dropped the suit. Personally, I would have held them liable. They were in the wrong. They dropped all the charges in exchange for him signing an agreement NOT to sue them… NOW, do ya think they might have done something wrong??????

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  7. My son was threatened by the Prosecuting attorney for Clay County Missouri Daniel L. White. He said he would file MORE CHARGES on my son with a $50k CASH ONLY bond on him, and now I find out that he ACTUALLY DID DO JUST THAT, AFTER we had already hired an attorney and the attorney had already appeared on my son’s behalf. He dropped the $50k cash only bond after issuing it, and my son was already represented. I recently obtained the court records from this incident, the prosecutor STILL refuses to hand over the items, even via SUNSHINE LAW, but from the docket records it is CLEAR that the prosecuting attorney was trying to make good on the threats he conveyed through my son’s attorney who did not represent my son properly in the first place.

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