Shaun H. Kedir


In 2001, Westminster, Colorado police officers were dispatched to the home of a suicidal thirteen year-old girl who had barricaded herself in a bathroom. The young girl was mutilating her wrist with two butcher knives. When police officers forced their way into the bathroom, the emotionally disturbed girl charged at them with the two butcher knives while screaming, "Kill me! Kill me!." One of the officers deployed a Taser M26, a hand held conductive energy weapon, which fires two barbed darts up to a distance of thirty-five feet that then deliver an electric shock of 50,000 volts. The officer's Taser shot hit the girl and immediately and safely incapacitated her. All of the police officers at the incident concurred, "without the Taser, we would have had to use lethal force." This is just one of several stories of Tasers safely incapacitating dangerous, aggressive, or high-risk individuals. Due to this capability of subduing individuals without harming the officer or suspect, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are purchasing and implementing Tasers. Currently, over 8000 of the 18,000 law enforcement and correctional agencies in the United States are testing or using Tasers. Marketed as one of "the safest and most effective use-of-force options available," police departments deploying Tasers claim that they reduce injury rates to officers and suspects, lower liability risk, and improve community security by providing a non-lethal alternative to the use of impact weapons or firearms. The recent widespread use of Tasers, however, has not been without controversy. There remain concerns over health risks, the possibility of abuse, the lack of regulation, and the overall safety of Tasers. Recently, media and human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have released reports of more than 100 people since 2001 dying after receiving Taser shocks. Although coroners have attributed the majority of the deaths to other factors, such as drug use, in at least five of the cases, coroners found Tasers to be a contributory factor. In addition to reports of fatalities, there have been reported cases of police officers deploying Tasers on unarmed non-compliant, or disturbed individuals who do not pose a threat to themselves or others. Some of these individuals include children, elderly, and pregnant women.