Home > civil liberties, criminal justice > Civil Liberties Group Slams Taser Use by New York State Law Enforcement

Civil Liberties Group Slams Taser Use by New York State Law Enforcement

Despite the known dangers, a new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union shows “[p]olice throughout New York state abuse stun guns and have killed more than a dozen people with the weapons in recent years….” As a result of the findings, the NYCLU is calling on New York law enforcement agencies to enforce “stricter use-of-force policies and Taser training.”

The troubling aspect of the report is whom police are using these weapons against. Minorities represent 58% of all people targeted by Taser-using law enforcement officials. Moreover, 40% of incidents involved children, the elderly, the mentally ill, or the intoxicated. Most troubling of all, 15% of occurrences “involved people already handcuffed or restrained.”

“[T]his disturbing pattern of misuse and abuse endangers lives. Law enforcement agencies that choose to use Tasers must adopt clear and effective policies governing their use,” said NYCLU director Donna Lieberman. Citing the report, Ms. Lieberman criticized New York state law enforcement for using Tasers in an “inappropriate, irresponsible and downright deadly manner….”

As the use of tasers continues to grow, reports like this shouldn’t be surprising. Although tasers are considered non-lethal weapons, they can and have caused sudden death. My primary concern with the way this report depicts taser use is, for an authority figure authorized to use deadly force against fellow citizens, it’s only natural for an otherwise non-lethal weapon to become the subject of abuse in unwarranted situations. The self-scrutiny an officer applies to appropriate taser use is inherently less strict than that of a gun – resulting in the highly reckless use of tasers, as documented by the NYCLU report.

Image via PBHIMC

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