June 21, 2013
Using a taser to immobilize an adult seems like a good idea when you consider the alternative would be to pull out your gun and kill the guy. But over-zealous law enforcement personnel are obviously taking taser-use to extremes. As of April 2013, there have been 538 taser-related deaths in the United States, and some of them have been children.
Truth Not Tasers and Electronic Village have been compiling a list of North Americans who died after they were tasered since 2001 and the statistics are staggering. More than 790 people have died since 1984 as a result of being tasered, and 530 of those deaths have occurred just since 2001.
According to Electronic Village, at least 77 of those who died after tasering (76 men and a 62-year-old woman) were African Americans. “Black people are only13.6% of the total population, yet 41% of the 2009-2013 taser-related deaths in America are Black people.”
Even more alarming is a report by Think Progress that discusses a Justice Department finding that there was a “pattern of police abuse” of the mentally ill in Portland, Oregon.
The report, according to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, found that “there is reasonable cause to believe that [Portland Police Bureau] is engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness, or those perceived to have mental illness.”
“We further found that, when dealing with people with mental illness, PPB (Portland Police Bureau) officers use electronic control weapons, or tasers, in circumstances where the use of tasers was not justified, or deploy them more times than necessary. Finally, in situations where PPB officers arrest people with mental illness for low level offenses, we found that there is a pattern or practice of using more force than necessary in these circumstances.”
One such case involved an 11-year-old girl with autism, found wandering naked along a highway in Oregon. The child was obviously unarmed and a cab driver who’d stopped to help her said she was non-combative and calm. In fact, according to the cab driver, the girl was giggling.
The police officer who arrived on the scene ordered the girl to stop walking and when she refused he threatened to taze her.
The girl’s father appeared on Infowars with Jakari Jackson and said his daughter was unable to respond to the officer because she was autistic and had difficulty communicating.
Instead of waiting for assistance, the officer tasered the 11-year-old girl then slammed her head into the hood of his car.
The girl survived the attack, but other children with disabilities weren’t always as lucky.
17-year-old Derrick Jones died in 2009. Jones, who had been drinking at his own home, was tasered when he “moved rapidly” toward a police officer and made unkind comments. Unarmed 15-year-old Brett Elder was taken down with taser, even though he only weighed 140 pounds.
And 16-year old Robert Mitchell was probably the most horrific case. After being chased through a neighborhood and cornered by at least 6 police officers, an exhausted Mitchell – unarmed, 5′ 2” and 130 pounds, hands raised in surrender, was tazed – to death.
Taser International, manufacturer of the M26 and X26 Tasers, says the tasers are not designed to stop a target through infliction of pain, but work by causing instant immobilization through muscle contraction. However, according to Amnesty International, police officers using the tasers at a fraction of their normal discharge during training events seem to disagree:
— “It’s like getting punched 100 times in a row, but once it’s off, you are back to normal again.” (The Olympian 2 March 2002)
— “It felt terrible.” “It hurts. I’m going to think twice before I use this on anyone.” (two officers quoted in the Mobile Register 8 April 2002).
— “It is the most profound pain I have ever felt. You get total compliance because they don’t want that pain again.” (firearms consultant, quoted in The Associated Press 12 August 2003)
— “They call it the longest five seconds of their life … it’s extreme pain, there’s no question about it. No one would want to get hit by it a second time.” (County Sheriff, quoted in The Kalazazoo Gazette, Michigan, 7 March 2004)