Several Local Police Departments Are Banning Tasers as Evidence Mounts They Kill People

Evidence has been mounting for years that Tasers are more dangerous than their manufacturer and law enforcement officials, who tout the weapon as a nonlethal alternative to firearms, have claimed.Over the past dozen years, 540 people, most of them unarmed, have died after being tased by police, according to a report from Amnesty International. Last year, the American Heart Association published the first scientific, peer-reviewed study showing that the devices can cause heart attacks and death.

In 2009, Taser International changed its safety warnings to suggest that users not aim for the chest, a seemingly minor tweak that nonetheless signaled the company's concern about its liability in wrongful death suits. This year, the company tweaked its safety warnings once again, this time to include language that using its products "could result in death or serious injury."

See also: Cleburne Man Decries Police Brutality After Probably Justified Traffic-Stop Tasing (Video)

In response, several local police departments are permanently holstering their Tasers. Fox 4 reported over the weekend that the departments in Burleson, Crowley, Mansfield and Richland Hills have all decided to ban the devices.

In Mansfield, a police spokesman told CBS 11 that Chief Gary Fowler made the decision after discussing the matter with the city attorney. The station reports that the city of Murphy has previously implemented a ban.

None of the cities were explicit about why they made the decision, but Pete Shulte, a private attorney, has an idea.

"Well, now what Taser can do is say, 'Police department, we told you that these devices could cause serious injury or death. It's your policy that caused the injury to this person so we're out of it,'" he told Fox 4.

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Tasers don't kill people. People kill people.

Isn't that what we say about guns?


Being unarmed hasn't removed the attackers ability to wound or maim. In reality someone getting hit anywhere on their body by of could cause permanent damage and disability . 

I do get that shocking the Shit out of someone tends to calm them down . Some of them .

But it is usually used on someone who has decided to stand and fight rather than run away.

I wonder if the body just  dies because it isn't able to fight or get away  . Or the electricity mixed with the adrenalin rush  just shorts everything and causes death ? 


There was just a confirmed death in San Angelo(5 hrs. away) because of a taser.

everlastingphelps topcommenter

1) I think Tasers are horribly overused, and most cops should not have them.

2) I think that Tasers contribute to police brutality, and more importantly, to the mindset that leads a cop to brutality.

That said, I don't want Tasers gone.  I want them back to where they were when they came out, as an alternative to lethal force.  Police use the force continuum, where there is a ladder of force that can be used with a suspect, and rules on how you go up it.  Before tasers, it looked like this:

Polite words -> Forceful words -> Open hand force -> strikes -> baton/weapon -> lethal force

Then, tasers came along, and gave cops another vital step between batons and lethal force.  The problem is, over the years, tasers have dropped further and further down the list until they are now pretty much even with forceful words.  That's a bad, bad place for them to be. 

Rather than an alternative to lethal force (the guy has a knife, we can't risk grappling with him, we have to shoot him -- wait, there's this new Taser thing!) they have now become an electronic torture device that is used for "pain compliance" -- or more properly, police convenience.  Turning the police into electronic torturers still makes them torturers, and gives them the mindset of a torturer.

So give them to SWAT teams and supervisors.  Make it clear that they are there to keep you from having to shoot someone, not as a matter of convenience.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

I thought they were always called "less lethal" as opposed to non lethal?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Tasers, or electrical stunning devices were never touted as non-lethal.  To me they were presented as a less lethal means to subdue belligerent suspects.

To put it this way:

Lethality of a 9mm bullet -- VERY HIGH

Lethality of an electrical stunning device -- NOT AS HIGH

Just as with guns, when an electrical stunning device is used the officer will aim for the largest area which will be the chest and abdomen areas.

I wonder how many police departments were sued successfully over a justified shooting where the suspect died?


@John1073 There's a time to use a taser and a time to use a gun. The taser ought to be last resort before using the gun, and perhaps even before clubbing a suspect in the head with a night stick. It's a training issue.

everlastingphelps topcommenter

Your heartbeat is controlled by electrical signals. The same signals that interrupt the control of your voluntary muscles can also interrupt the electrical signals controlling your heart. If you have some difficulty recovering from this interruption, you die.


@everlastingphelps My only caveat to what you're saying, I think the taser belongs between strikes and the baton. I'd rather be tased than clubbed on the head with a night stick.


@everlastingphelps I agree with everything you say except for the idea that they should be taken away from front line officers.  From my point of view, there really isn't any reason to have them if they aren't available to most officers that carry firearms.  But I agree it should only be used when use of deadly force is already warranted, and training needs to be the key.  In other words, Tasers shouldn't be used to get compliance, they should be used only to stop a immediate threat of physical harm to the officer or someone else.  

I also think we tend to blow these things out of proportion.  Officers regularly get hit with a Taser as part of their training, as evidenced by hundreds of YouTube videos. This probably has the unintended consequence of telling them that its safe (you don't see the same thing happening with their 9mm).  But it does show that use of a Taser is far better for the person being Tased than being shot.  It probably is as safe or safer than a baton/weapon in the hands of most officers.

everlastingphelps topcommenter

And to be clear, I don't read much into "unarmed" either. Someone who is trying to get the cop's gun and hasn't yet is "unarmed" but lethal force is certainly warranted. On the other hand, a 300 lbs woman who won't get out of the car on a simple speeding stop doesn't warrant having lethal force used on her, but the cops will submit her to electronic torture in a heartbeat.

everlastingphelps topcommenter

I would be more comfortable with them being in the hands of all officers if every use (both trodes and drive stun mode) was investigated by IA and the brass as if it were the use of lethal force. Add in all the red tape and they won't use it as a convenience.

On the other hand, the likely result would eventually be that lethal force investigations would become trivialized instead.

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Guesty @everlastingphelps I know this is a serious article and serious thread, but reading your comment, I had the image of an applicant for DPD coming across this line in the qualifications:  "Before being issued and given the authority to use a 9mm in an official capacity, you will be required to be shot with a 9mm; initially in training and then once ever 2 years in a refresher course.".  Wonder how thick the stacks of applicants would be then?

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