NY cops misuse Tasers; would it be different here?


In New York State, cops are routinely misusing Tasers, zapping suspects who are laready handcuffed, zapping people in the chest, zapping people who aren't menacing or carrying any weapon ... pretty much, it seems, zapping away at will.

This is the problem with so-called non-lethal weapons, and it's why I get worried when SFPD Chief Greg Suhr talks about how he'd love to have the little zappers in his armory.  See, in theory, you can stun someone who has, say, a box cutter -- which is, yeah, a lethal weapon, in theory, but maybe the person holding it didn't have to die. So Suhr thinks if the officer had a stun gun, she could have zapped him and he'd still be alive.  (Actually, I wasn't there, but I would think a professional law-enforcement officer with a nightstick and even basic self-defense training might have been able to keep the box-cutter guy at bay until backup arrived.)

I get it, the cops would rather not have to kill people -- but it turns out, at least according the the NY ACLU, that once there's another less-lethal alternative, it just gets used in a lot of situations where there was no need to shoot anyone with anything. Turns out, according the the ACLU, that if you give a cop a Taser and say it's a weapon that won't kill anyone, there's less reason to use discretion.

So Tasers in SF are on hold for a while, but Suhr ought to take heed: If he wants Tasers, their use should be limited to the same situations where firearms are authorized, that is, to protect the life of an officer or another person -- and not, for example, to subdue someone who's resisting arrest. 


While law enforcement in this city has Mirkarimi in a leadership role, not sure there should be any consideration of additional weapons. Even if SFPD is a different department, the Sheriff works close enough to ensure a lack of confidence in any of these departments.

Posted by Trollish on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

You do know that the sheriff's department has tasers, right?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

It's great that you are getting thoughts from this post as well as from our argument made at this time.

Posted by empower network on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 1:02 am

You seem to be going on the basis that Tasers are very deadly when in fact they are not. One study shows that their use 99.75 of people tased only suffered no injuries or mild injuries. It is the rare case that someone tased actually dies.

You are also not a professional law enforcement officer as you point out. Is it realistic to expect one person- no matter how well trained, to keep someone armed with a box cutter at bay with jsut a nightstick? Really no- the person had demonstrated himself as a threat. The officer had a choice- take the person on hand to hand or nightstick to box cutter and risk serious injury. If she had a taser- that would have been a great situation to use it. Unfortunately- SF as usual is to scared to go there.

You are also flawed in your understanding of lethal force policies. Police are generally allowed to use lethal force to protect themselves or others from death OR serious bodily injury- not just when present with actual lethal force.


Posted by D. Native on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

point that generally they are not used as an alternative to hand-to-hand combat, but rather as an alternative to shooting a perp.

So even in those cases where a taser does cause permanent injury or death, it's still more benign than being shot.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 8:56 am

Because law enforcement are trained to go to a Taser not as a first resort but as a last before firing their weapons - it's not designed to take the place of physically restraining a suspect. The fact is that too many law enforcement officers are substituting it for that - and they're wrong to do so. They're sloppy cops.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

I know of a number of people on 4 airliners on 9/11/2001 who would disagree with you that box cutters are "in theory" lethal weapons.

I don't think you've ever been in a fight or taken even a basic self-defense course. You cited the incident where the officer shot a suspect who had slashed a coworker several months ago. Try this exercise and see how easy it is. Take a 140 pound woman and give her 20-30 pounds of gear. Take a larger man (with mental issues) and give him a red marker pen. See how long she can keep him from marking her up. Police officers are not Judo or MMA champs.

Going hands on is a dirty, messy, ugly business. In order to force a person to drop a weapon clenched tightly, you have to hit the wrist. Usually hard enough to cause permanent damage. Is that what you would prefer?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

A weak appeal to authority that collapses your already feckless argument. Anyone who wields a box cutter against a cop is begging to be shot, and not with a Taser. Self-defense training and nightsticks? Really? Why not just ask police to sing armed attackers a soothing lullaby?

Posted by Chromefields on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 12:03 pm