Tasers are weapons that use nitrogen gas capsules to shoot two electrified probes attached to an insulated wire that has a range of over 10 meters. The projectiles attach to the suspect, penetrating the skin and anchoring themselves at a depth of about 10 millimeters. Once the probes have attached, the police officer pulls the trigger. Electrical charges are sent through the suspect’s body, disrupting the central nervous system and rendering the person immobile. Tasers use a timing feature that delivers an initial shock for about seven seconds. This is followed by shock waves every one-and-a-half seconds afterwards. These periodic jolts keep the suspect from regaining his or her wits.
“Taser” is an acronym made up from the first letters in “Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle. John H. Cover, former NASA scientist and original inventor of the Taser, named the weapon after his favorite book character, Tom Swift. It was one of the books in the series, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, that inspired Cover to coin the acronym “Taser”. The term has become so common today that it even spawned the verb form, “to tase.
On One Side
Tasers are non-deadly option that allow police to disable suspects without having to be close enough to touch them, as required with a stun gun or baton. Police commonly use Tasers as an effective means of self defence, especially when someone threatens the officer with a knife or other weapon. There are also cases where a suspect’s violent behavior cannot be controlled by pepper spray or blows by a baton. In these cases, a Taser is an option short of dead force. Suspects in this case, who might otherwise have been shot with a gun, are probably very happy to be alive.
On the Other Side
Some people do not like the idea of using Tasers because they deliberately cause the attacker pain. For many people, the idea of shocking a person to incapacity is not right. Furthermore, more that 20 people have died in Canada from complications after being “tasered.” In a growing number of cases, coroners have ruled that the Taser may have contributed to a victim’s death. These cases generally occurred when the attacker had a history of health problems, such as heart trouble.
In 2011 the New York Civil Liberties Union published a report analyzing 851 reports of taser misue. They concluded that police authorities were not using tasers in accordance with appropriate guidelines and policies.
The Bottom Line
There is a social contract between the police and the general public. We agree to allow the police to enforce the laws of this country. In exchange, the police agree to do so fairyl and without the use of excessive force. If you want to know whether the police stepped over the line, ask yourself this question: ” Would I agree to use the same level of force against me as was used against?”