The Miami New Times has investigated years of Taser use by police officers in South Florida and has found all sorts of problems. Contain your surprise. Reporter Michael E. Miller documents officers using them against the homeless and mentally ill to force compliance, not because the officers are being threatened in any way. And some of them are attempting to conceal their misuse of Tasers from their departments.
Miller’s deep dive opens with the tale of a Miami Police officer using a Taser on a homeless man inside a Publix grocery store in order to intimidate him into staying away. The man was never arrested or charged with a crime. The officer never even filed a report about the incident. But a customer in the store witnessed what happened and filed a complaint with the police department.
From there Miller delves into the history of Tasers and their use, and more particularly their misuse. Miami police have used Tasers on 6-year-olds having temper tantrums, a 12-year-old girl skipping school, and many unarmed people who sometimes never even get charged with crimes. Miller notes that Miami, like the rest of the country, has seen a big drop in crime, but Taser use has remained steady since 2010 and fatal shootings by police have increased:
This statistic is troubling because Tasers were introduced with the promise of reducing deadly police-involved shootings, says Justin Mazzola, a researcher for Amnesty International.
“It hasn’t really put a dent into when police are using their firearms,” he says of national stats that mirror Miami’s. “Tasers are being used in a myriad of incidents when normally use of force wouldn’t even be necessary.”